By Blake Ells
Spain Park has known its postseason plans for a few weeks, which could be to blame for late season complacency and losses to Hoover, Mountain Brook and Oak Mountain. In its final region game against Mountain Brook, the Jaguars had five turnovers.
“Against a team like Oak Mountain that eats up the clock, you don’t get many opportunities on offense,” said head coach Shawn Raney. “When you give it back to them five times, you don’t have a chance. And we didn’t have a chance.”
Still, Spain Park will enter the postseason as the fourth seed from the toughest region in the state, behind Thompson, Hoover and Mountain Brook.
“To make the playoffs in our region is the number one goal,” Raney said. “To make the top four in this region, you’ve got to play some good ball and beat some good teams. I thought initially in the season, we had a lot of stuff that went right for us. We lost two heartbreakers – one to Hoover and the next week to Mountain Brook. I think our kids lost a little bit of confidence.”
Regaining that confidence is paramount to turning around their fortunes in the postseason, according to Raney. Ahead of his team’s final regular season contest against Minor, he met with his players individually to see how they could shake those issues. Just two seasons ago, Spain Park had its best season in school history. This year, it seems, all of the bounces that went their way then are going the other way.
“I’ve got to make sure they understand that we just reached a goal by making the playoffs and it’s time to put all feelings aside and throw down and let’s go see what happens in the playoffs,” said Raney. “We’ve proven we can play with the best teams, we’ve just come up a little short. If we can just keep getting a little better each day, we can maybe win some of those games.”
The Jaguars lost to Hoover by just three points and Mountain Brook by just one.
“Instead of expecting to win, they’re expecting something bad to happen,” said Raney. “It starts with coaching. We’ve got to do a better job coaching. I talked to our coaches about not only being X’s and O’s coaches, but talking to our kids and making sure they understand that we believe in them.
The contest against Minor comes at a perfect time. Spain Park will have an opportunity to get back into its groove before the games become more important. The players in this year’s senior class were sophomores in 2015, so they’re not strangers to success.
“When you become a starter, you acquire a leadership responsibility,” Raney said. “That’s a new deal (for seniors who are first-year starters). Leadership is the coaches’ job, but it helps when you have kids that understand and are pushing their peers to do what you want done.”
The playoffs begin Nov. 10.