By Chris Yow
For Spring Hill, the last two seasons have been full of what-ifs. What if lightning doesn’t force the 2018 Backyard Bowl to be suspended? What if the Raiders hadn’t lost three fumbles against rival Summit two years ago? Instead, the Raiders have been on the brink of some big time wins, but unable to finish the job.
Coach Ben Martin has focused this off-season on changing that narrative.
“I think these kids are hungry,” he said. “This is my third year, and we’ve been working on some culture things. We know we have the ability to be competitive, but can we put together four quarters of good football without the wheels coming off? That’s what we’ve been working on.”
Two new coaches will be calling plays on either side of the ball this season, with former defensive coordinator Jason Busby taking a job at Summertown and Matt Brown taking over the offensive coordinator role.
“We’ve got a new offensive coordinator, which I’m excited about, and we lost our defensive coordinator which I’m not excited about,” Martin said. “It’s been a challenge.
“We just have to adapt and overcome. Our response to those things and other events will determine our outcomes.”
‘Adapt and Overcome’ is the motto for this year’s team, Martin said. The loss of Busby in July was a big hit, along with all the practice and contact restrictions brought along by COVID-19.
“I told our kids that things aren’t optimal this season, but it’s that way for everybody,” he said. “We lost a coach who was, of course, a very good coach, but also someone the kids had built a rapport and trust with as their defensive coordinator.”
When it comes to athletes, however, the Raiders will lean on two of the fastest, most athletic players in Maury County in Landen Secrest and Donte Prowell. Secrest has quickly become the team’s vocal and physical leader.
“I can’t say enough good things about Landen Secrest. He is the epitome of what we want in our program. He is a very mature young man who leads by example,” he said. “He’s gifted athletically, but the character he exemplifies everyday overshadows even his athleticism. He’s a quality teammate and person who comes to work every day.”
Prowell, a 5-10, 150 pound senior, will be the leader on defense, and Martin said he could be very useful on offense if necessary after being laser timed in the 40-yard-dash at 4.3 seconds.
“He’s turned some heads this summer. He’s a great cover guy and big hitter. Some call him undersized, but he makes up for it with intensity,” Martin said.
Luka Boylan won the team’s quarterback competition, and Martin plans to utilize his 6-4, 220 pound frame to his advantage this season. He is also hopeful his signalcaller won’t be forced to play middle linebacker on every play as well. Backing up Boylan is junior Trower Davis, who is coming off a torn ACL from his first JV game last season.
“I really looked for (Davis) to contribute last year on varsity, but being a sophomore I wanted to get him some game experience and it backfired,” Martin said. “He’s come back strong this year; one of the strongest players on the team in the weight room.”
Returning to lead the defense this season will be Sebastian McCartney, who tallied 53 tackles last season, including a pair of sacks and forced fumbles. Not returning, however, will be the Raiders’ only All-Region selection Avery Worstell, who opted not to play his senior season.
“We are going to have to replace some big time defensive players this season, and we are looking for several younger kids to step up and play big roles for us,” Martin said.
Spring Hill opens the season against Columbia Central in the Backyard Bowl on Friday, Aug. 21 at home.