The Greenbrier East Spartans (7-2) picked up their biggest win of the season last Friday, October 29 when they defeated the 7th ranked Princeton Tigers 23-17 in thrilling overtime fashion.
While another number in the win column looked familiar, things down on the Spartans sidelines were a bit different.
Defensive coordinator Aaron Baker, head coach from 2009-2011, watched the game from the field rather than his normal spot up in the press box. That is because Baker was the interim head coach against the Tigers after Ray Lee’s appeal was denied earlier in the week. Lee was ejected from the win against Hampshire in the third quarter a week earlier.
Baker said it felt good to be back on the field, but at the same time, a little odd.
“It was different than what I’ve been used to for the last few years. I’m usually in the press box, so it’s definitely a different experience being on the field. However, I enjoyed feeling the excitement and intensity that our guys were playing with,” Baker said.
After the game, Baker said he spoke in great length with Lee, and the head coach had nothing but positive things to say.
“Coach Lee and I talked for a good while after the game ended. Coach stressed to me that he had complete confidence in our staff and our players in getting the job done. He listened to the game and could just tell that our kids’ desire, and passion was high and could tell the effort was tremendous,” Baker stated.
The Spartans’ game plan consistently every week is to run the ball as much and as well as possible. According to Baker, that stays the same no matter who would be coaching.
“Make them stop our run game,” Baker said when asked what the strategy was going into the contest.
“We felt that we could run the ball, which is what we do well. If we were able to get our run game going it would keep their offense off the field. The Princeton offense has been good for a couple years now, so we knew we could control the pace of the game if we were able to establish field position and time of possession,” Baker stressed.
As much credit that goes to Baker for the extraordinary job he did keeping his team focused, he noted the players’ effort and hustle was the main reason for the success against the Tigers.
“Our players really played together as a team. Everyone did their job to the best of their ability and rallied around each other in certain situations. The kids did a great job of implementing what we had practiced all week, a great job of executing that plan, and a great job of supporting each other,” Baker exclaimed.
The Spartans are pretty much guaranteed a playoff spot again for what would “technically” be the fourth year in a row. However, they may also get to host a game at Spartan Stadium with a win this week against Lincoln County, and Baker could do nothing but smile when speaking of that possibility again.
“Our program has really changed the last few years. We have been in the playoffs in 2018, 2019, and now this year. We would have been in the playoffs in 2020 it wasn’t for a last-second rule change allowing teams who didn’t play as many games as us to be allowed into the playoff pairings. We are still counting last year as a playoff year, just with an asterisk beside it,” he said.
“This senior class has had a lot of success and you can see that culture changing with each year. To be in the spot we are in right now is a testament to the type of players we have and that’s hard-working, coachable, goal-oriented, and willing to do what’s needed for the program to succeed. We are looking forward to finishing the regular season this week against Lincoln County and hopefully, we can get Spartan Stadium filled to capacity the following week by getting that home playoff seed. The support we have received thus far this season from the community has been awesome and we’d love to give them the experience of being able to attend a playoff game on our home field,” Baker concluded.
The Spartans will finish their regular season against Lincoln County this Friday, Nov. 5.