New coach looks to turn things around at Springfield
SPRINGFIELD TWP. As a new season tips off, the Springfield Spartans are a team looking to take the detail work they've done the past few years and put it to use under the direction of a new head coach.
The program hasn't boasted massive win totals in recent seasons, but as new head coach Kyle Dack takes over, he sees a group eager to put the pieces together and capitalize on the finer aspects of the game they worked on under former head coach Tim Cole.
Cole stepped away from the program over the summer and in stepped Dack, a former Manchester High School standout who served as a junior varsity coach at Tuslaw the past four seasons and is starting his first varsity head coaching stint.
"After we got everybody together, we were excited as a whole staff. The record wasn't there last year, but it's a good group of kids who are coachable and hungry to win," Dack said. "They've really worked on their skills and learning the game the past couple of years and they feel like this is their time to put it all together."
The Spartans posted a 2-21 record last season and although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hasn't exactly made any aspect of life easier in sports or society, this is an experienced group with six seniors on the roster and a belief that winning basketball is within reach.
Senior guard Dylan Hanna is the squad's leading returning scorer and the focal point for an offense that figures to get much of its spark from the team's defense. It is, Dack noted, a pressure-focused defense that will seek to harass opposing ball handlers all over the court.
"It's a new system for everybody and it took a while to get comfortable with it, but the past couple of scrimmages, I felt like we really found our groove and how we want to play," Dack said. "We want to be more of a defensive team and we want to pressure the ball 90 feet from the basket. We've given teams fits with our traps the last couple of scrimmages."
Hanna figures to have plenty of help from 6-foot-4 senior forward Joel Justice, a solid post player who will be asked to play an active role in the team's trapping defense. Two of his fellow seniors, Chris Duffy and Joe Cole, are players Dack describes as hard-nosed, tough competitors willing to do whatever is asked of them. Their effort and hustle should be valuable given that the team's preferred style of play can be physically demanding, tiring and require constant hustle from all five players on the court.
Another of the squad's seniors, Brysyn Frashuer, was a standout for the football team this fall and the 6-foot-2 forward's energy, athleticism and willingness to play with a physical style have Dack looking forward to what he can bring to the court.
Like all of Springfield's teams this school year, the boys basketball squad is playing its first season in the newly formed Metro Athletic Conference. The MAC is the result of its eight member schools breaking ties with the Portage Trail Conference and reforming as a separate entity.
Springfield is set to play its first MAC game Dec. 4 against Streetsboro, although the contest – like the rest of the schedule – is subject to change as the pandemic forces everyone involved to be adaptable. With all of the health and safety protocols in place for teams in terms of temperature checks, mask wearing, hand cleaning and social distancing, the Spartans and their opponents will be relying on each other to stay healthy in order for games to be played.
Additionally, the restrictions on crowd size will impact the atmosphere at games. The overall impacts of the pandemic actually began affecting the Spartans months ago, according to Dack.
"It's definitely been interesting this year with what's going on in the world, guys weren't coming to open gyms if they were playing football or golf because they had to stick with one sport and limit their exposure," Dack said, adding that not taking over the program until July added to the difficulty. "It was challenging starting later, but we were excited to get going."
Having grown up and played in the area, Dack is familiar with the local basketball scene and eager to tackle his first season as a varsity head coach. The question ahead is whether that eagerness, combined with the energy of his players and their belief that the pieces are in place for a successful season, will propel the Spartans to the new heights they want to reach.