Now that the regular season has concluded, the Southern Ohio Spartans are hitting the “reset” button before their first-round contest against the sixth-seeded West Virginia Bulldogs on Saturday at West Complex.
No. 3 Southern Ohio (7-3) lost their final regular season game 38-8 to their arch rival the Portsmouth Warriors — but that wasn’t the bad news. The Spartans only dressed 22 players for the game.
According to Spartans owner Jojo Parker, the numbers began diminishing weeks ago as players began quitting the team due to military commitments, job requirements or to simply enjoy the summer. The low point came in a win over the West Virginia Storm where Southern Ohio only dressed 13 players.
For the players that have stuck around, many of them have been playing both ways (offense and defense).
“For the most part, most of them are playing ironman ball out there,” Parker said.
Seeking their first postseason victory in franchise history, Parker plans on doing a great deal of experimenting. Duke Edwards is expected to take some snap under center while former quarterback Johnathan Schweickart moves back to running back.
Parker also plans on moving speedster L.J. Adams around, lining him up all over the offensive formation. He’ll see time at running back, fullback and will shift out wide as the Spartans look to exploit his speed in one-on-one matchups. Southern Ohio also recently picked up Dee Smith Jr, who Parker compared to Adams. He plans on creating packages to get both players on the field at the same time.
Although he isn’t sure how the changes will unfold, Parker is poised for Saturday.
“I’m kind of confident really,” Parker said. “We got the three-seed. Our record is favorable. I feel pretty confident going in, but most of all I just want my guys to compete and stay in the game. Compete for four quarters; win, lose or draw, we’ll do it as a team.”
This will be the second consecutive year the Spartans have entered the postseason with a shorthanded roster, Parker knows the only way to change that is by winning a postseason game.
“It would mean a lot,” Parker said. “Definitely getting the win would help the numbers that we have. Everything that’s happened in this season has been building for next season. That’s what we’ve been talking to the players about since our numbers have decreased. It’s more of a ‘don’t give up on the season’ because we have a winning season. Continue to compete and build off of this for next season.”
If Southern Ohio does celebrate its first playoff victory, the Portsmouth Warriors will be waiting — a challenge Parker welcomes.
“After the game, we all (both teams) met in the middle, said the Lord’s prayer and said, ‘we’ll see you all in two weeks,” Parker said
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.