Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 30, 2004
The Spain Park Jaguars (9-4) were forced to start their third-string quarterback Friday night as the state’s most anticipated rematch ended with Hoover moving one step closer to another Class 6A title, downing the Jags, 24-7.
Austin Graham, who has already verbally committed to play baseball at the University of Alabama, was forced into the quarterback starting role after Tyler Grisham, who has been starting for the injured Neil Caudle the last three games, was injured in the third quarter of the Minor game.
Third-year Spain Park head coach Vince DiLorenzo said Grisham informed him of his sore ribs after the Minor game but the decision not to play Grisham was not made until Grisham’s doctors informed DiLorenzo any further injury could be dangerous.
Grisham, who has already verbally committed to Clemson, played the entire fourth quarter of the Minor game with hurt ribs without informing his coaches.
&uot;That just shows what a warrior (Grisham) is,&uot; DiLorenzo said of his senior. &uot;(Clemson) is going to be getting another champion.&uot;
Graham filled in as starting quarterback nicely, throwing 4-of-12 for 59 yards while rushing 14 times for 90 yards.
&uot;I feel our players gave us a chance to win the game,&uot; DiLorenzo said. &uot;Austin Graham showed what a champion he is by stepping in, with three days of practice, and taking over as our starting quarterback.&uot;
Spain Park never seemed to catch up with the Bucs after Hoover’s Jahi Word-Daniels blocked a punt and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.
E.J. Riggins scored the Jags only touchdown on a one-yard run to close out the second half with the Bucs leading, 14-7.
DiLorenzo said Riggins stepped up in a huge way after Caudle went down, leading the team in receiving and rushing. After working on his poise, fumbling and leadership, DiLorenzo said Riggins was one of his team’s biggest assets this season.
&uot;E.J. came to us as a fiery competitor, maybe even a little bit too fiery at times,&uot; DiLorenzo said jokingly.
&uot;(Riggins) is a guy who stepped up to the plate.&uot;
The Jaguars lose their first senior class this year, 24 in all, and DiLorenzo knows it will be hard to replace guys like Grisham, Graham, Riggins, Justin Aldred and Matt Laird.
&uot;All these seniors and I started together and started in a difficult situation,&uot; DiLorenzo said of his first graduating class.
Going into the 2005 season, DiLorenzo said his team will lean on Caudle, wide receiver Adam Mims and running back Harold Willis while his team must also continue the great tradition of producing hard-hitting offensive lineman and be able to take the pressure off Caudle.
&uot;Our goal is to get back into the weight room and get stronger,&uot; DiLorenzo said.
&uot;We will probably have to find ways to get (Mims) the football.&uot;
After making the playoffs in consecutive seasons, DiLorenzo said he sees his program moving in the right direction. DiLorenzo credited the coaching of Keith Trotman, the freshman team head coach, and his staff for their work since this was one of the first seasons in DiLorenzo’s short tenure in which the varsity team didn’t have to pull many players from the freshman squad.
Although DiLorenzo sees bright things in the future, he knows his program still has a ways to go.
&uot;They’re still some areas of our program that are not working as we need them to work,&uot; DiLorenzo said.
&uot;That is my job to get those areas to work and I take responsibility when they do not work.