"Progress for progress's sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering.” – Dolores Umbridge, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
For new head coach Zach Fulmer and his Garden Spot players, it would have been easy to be satisfied with the way things were.
In a move designed to afford his players a greater opportunity to develop, however, Fulmer opted to put his own spin on the Spartan program.
Even after three years assisting previous head coach Matt Zamperini — who stepped down this offseason following a successful decade at the helm, including a Section Three title in 2012 — Fulmer hopes to provide an upward trend in the Spartans’ third year since rejoining Section Two.
“(The goal) would definitely be to keep growing and keep climbing,” Fulmer said. “Coach Zamperini did a lot for the program; he definitely raised the level. (Yet) in a talented Section Two, we want to be one of the teams that is up there, year in and year out.”
To do that, the new Spartans’ coach even has a talented core of starters looking beyond prior accomplishments and thinking more about what comes next.
“Whereas we were given more base concepts before and we kind of had to put our own interpretation on them,” wideout Mack Focht began, “(Fulmer) laid out an entire system that relies on us to do something that he has designed for us. So it’s definitely a more analytical approach to the game.”
Fulmer was happy to elaborate. “We talk about how offense builds on itself, how different concepts complement each other,” said the coach. “We’re trying to give an idea of what we’re trying to accomplish with each play.”
As a result, Focht (45 catches in 2015) and senior running back Jahad Jeffers (1,200 yards rushing) both are eager to build on already stellar numbers.
Said Jeffers, “I’m looking forward to our new offense and seeing how that works out. It’s really going to start at practice, having high intensity at practice and being focused.”
As was the case in 2015, Jeffers and Focht will be the primary supporting cast around junior quarterback Cameron Roth, who threw for 1,500 yards last season.
Returning linemen such as Mark Ferris will be relied upon to protect Roth and open up holes for Jeffers, while Brock Kauffman (132 tackles), Gary Clark (74 tackles), and Austin Wanner (119 tackles) will be key cogs defensively.
Yet with all that talent from a year ago, Garden Spot finished with just a 4-6 record. Hence the belief that the program has more to give, and plenty to build upon, even within a challenging Section Two.
“If you saw our record, it doesn’t really speak for how close the games were last year,” Focht said. “We lost three or four of those games in the last five minutes. From there, you can flip your record around like that if you just play the whole game.”
Likewise, Ferris offered that “making sure we play all four” quarters and maintaining a strong mental edge would be key factors to avoiding a similar fate in 2016.
Which explains why Fulmer has spent the early parts of camp emphasizing the details.
“It’s one of those things where two inches may not matter,” Fulmer said, “but that kind of equates to the toughness you need to win the fourth quarter, because there are so many good teams here that the little things makes the big difference.”
Also explaining how subtle changes can offer a means of progress for a program still aiming for more.