Passing Crusaders will test Spartans' defense

For a young team, learning from a loss is the most important part of losing.

Losing late in a game like Bainbridge did last week against Seattle Prep is always painful, but at least the Spartans were battling right down to the final play.

“We were frustrated that we didn’t get it done,” coach Andy Grimm said Wednesday as his team prepared for Friday’s 7 p.m. home game against Eastside Catholic. But on the positive side, he liked the team’s resilience.

“They showed me something in that they kept coming back,” he said. “It’s fun to see that with an inexperienced team.”

Special teams had several breakdowns that led to long returns by Prep’s Joey DeRitis, who scored late on a punt return and set up a first-half TD with a 76-yard kickoff run.

“Those things happen,” Grimm said. “We’re working on the kicking game and not turning the ball over (four times against Prep) this week. You just have to stress how important it is to execute, especially on special teams. They can break your back if you just relax for a moment.”

And things won’t get any easier Friday night.

Grimm said Eastside Catholic, which shares a 2-2 record with the Spartans, is dangerous offensively because it has several good athletes operating out of the spread. The Crusaders opened Metro League play last week with a 28-20 win at Lakeside.

“They pass most of the time, but they give you a lot of multi-looks so you can’t get predictable,” he said.

Their most dangerous threat is sophomore running back Chevelle Walker (6-0, 160), who has 99 rushing yards on 21 carries).

“They have success because they get you thinking they’re about to pass and they’ll run sweeps with a receiver,” the veteran coach said.

The offense is led by senior Connor McCormick (6-4, 210), who has completed 59 of 94 passes (63 percent) for 688 yards. He’s thrown for seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.

“The quarterback isn’t particularly mobile and doesn’t run much,” Grimm said. “But you need to pressure him or he’ll pick you apart. Defensively we’re preaching that the front four will have to get pressure on him because you have a lot of people to cover off the line of scrimmage.”

Grimm said it will be even more important than usual to control the game with the running attack.

“It’d be nice to get a lead and then keep their offense off the field,” Grimm said. “But they’re explosive enough that you can’t just sit on it with a lead. You’ve got to move the ball throughout the game.”

The Crusaders have several talented receivers, beginning with Walker and senior Luke Nelson (6-2, 195). Walker has 156 yards on 10 catches and Nelson has 318 yards and three touchdowns on only 16 receptions. Senior Alec Kimble (6-4, 210) has nine catches for 87 yards and three touchdowns.

“They’re very opportunistic, including on special teams and defense,” Grimm said. “It’ll be a test for us.”

Grimm said the Spartans have responded well this week after the loss.

“They’re anxious to get going again,” he said,” which is a good sign.”

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