Saraland quarterback K.J. Lacey fires a pass under pressure in Thursday’s spring game against Enterprise. (John O’Dell/Call News)
Saraland’s 35-7 spring win over Enterprise Thursday gave Spartans coach Jeff Kelly plenty of reasons to smile. (John O’Dell/Call News)
By JIMMY WIGFIELD
Anyone hoping Saraland might get too full of itself and just go through the motions on game days were likely bitterly disappointed with what happened in Thursday’s spring game.
The defending Class 6A state champions dispatched Enterprise 35-7. The starters won the first half 21-0.
That was no slouch the Spartans emphatically defeated. The Wildcats went two rounds into the Class 7A playoffs and finished 8-4 last season.
The offense performed as expected, even without five-star receiver Ryan Williams, who was on the sideline recovering from a hamstring strain.
In one half, four-star quarterback K.J. Lacey ran for a touchdown and was 10-of-14 passing for 86 yards and two more scores. Running back Santae McWilliams, who most recently was offered by Stanford, had 74 yards on 11 carries.
“K.J. did a good job moving the ball around and finding guys,” Kelly said. “Santae got some good runs in. He looks faster.”
But Saraland unveiled a snarling defense intent on being a major force in the Spartans’ attempt to repeat as state champions. If Saraland is going to chisel itself into history, the defense wants to be the ones hammering the granite.
“We’ve got guys who have been here two years, three years now, and we know what it takes,” said noseguard Antonio Coleman, who has offers from Alabama, Tennessee, Penn State and North Carolina State. “Our defense has developed the mentality to kill.”
The Spartans’ starters allowed Enterprise just 43 yards and five first downs, including just 37 yards on the ground.
“You want to be the defense nobody wants to play,” Saraland coach Jeff Kelly said. “We scrimmaged against those suckers for eight days this spring and I know the guys we have offensively and I know the struggles we had against our defense.”
Linebacker Jamison Curtis, the Spartans’ leading tackler last season and one of 10 returning defensive starters, said the experience and talent on that side of the ball will make the Spartans tough to beat.
“We’ve got a lot of guys back and we know our responsibilities and we just played fast,” Curtis said. “We want to repeat and I think we’ve got the guys to do it.”
Defensive coordinator Brett West was looking forward to watching film of the spring game.
“In the spring, you want to see who is going to swarm and be physical and not shy away from contact,” he said. “I think when we cut the film on tomorrow, we’ll see a lot of red jerseys around the football.”
Kelly is also pleased with the spring the defending champions had.
“I really like where we are as a team early on,” he said. “I think we’re developing a good mentality of running to the football defensively and playing with explosiveness. We did a good job on the back end.”
Lacey scored on a 1-yard run and threw touchdown passes of 15 yards to Myron Dunklin and 3 yards to Kingston Bush.
“But there is plenty to improve on,” Kelly said. “We missed a couple of opportunities offensively. We had two drives we didn’t score on, one where we didn’t block up a base run and another where we didn’t protect. That gives us plenty to work on.”
Williams, the first sophomore to be named Mr. Football, didn’t play because of his hamstring but couldn’t resist dunking a football over the goalpost as the team finished pregame warmups.
“Right now, I feel 100 percent,” said Williams, who said he is rehabilitating the hamstring twice a day. “That’s a good sign. But I need more rehab so I can be sure. I wish I was out there. But I’m excited to know without me we can still make some plays.”
Kelly said it was productive to see what his offense could do without Williams.
“Offensively, we operated pretty well and we did it without the best player in the state,” Kelly said. “We had to put drives together without him. He wanted to play but it was the right thing for him not to play. It will make us better in the long run.”