At the 2018-19 Spring Creek Athletic Banquet, coach Daniel Robinson announced that the Gators football program will be going independent. The announcement raised some eyebrows among the crowd of Gators fans.
But Robinson says he is determined to help the skeptics see that this is the best decision for the future of Spring Creek football.
Going independent automatically forfeits Spring Creek High School’s chances to make the playoffs — a concern raised by critics of the move. But with only 26 players returning next season, and most of them being inexperienced, Robinson says he had to make a call that would benefit the development of his team.
It’s not a call many 2A football coaches make.
“It’s a rare thing,” said James Alverson, assistant commissioner of media relations with the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. Young, small 1A schools will choose to go independent or to limit their football programs to just junior varsity, he said, but going independent is not something he hears of happening often with larger schools.
The Gators scored a total of 62 points last season. The team was the only one in the East Central 2A conference to finish with less than four wins. Out of the 26 returning players, only six will be upperclassmen.
But Robinson is remaining positive.
“As a coach you never want to talk negatively, but the playoff situation was pretty slim in our current situation. On the positive note, we have had a significant jump in interest for football for the 2019 season and the majority of them are freshmen and sophomores, which is great for the building process,” Robinson said.
“People also have to understand that our staff is basically coming up to our second full year. We are still implementing our way in many phases like the weight room, schemes, terminology, relationship building and just getting to know the population at the school. Then you throw moving up to the best 2A football conference in the state and we have small 1A athletic numbers, it’s a tough scenario that has required some creative thinking which led us to the independent idea,” Robinson said.
He added that he and his staff are working to get the football program to a level of prominence.
“I want us to win some ball games and be competitive every Friday night. This spring and summer is going to be about getting the right kids implemented in this program,” he said. “All coaches want high numbers in the program, but we are more concerned right now about the quality of the young men. We have done a good job this spring of building a great core unit that trusts each other, and as a coach, it’s my job to keep it that way.”
Critics of the move have voiced concerns on social media.
“No facilities for the team. They are shedding players to other districts because the kids want to compete and they can’t do that at Spring Creek. Right now they have the chance to rise to the occasion. To compete with the best football programs in the state and they choose to run, hide from it. This is a cowardly move. The athletics at Spring Creek have been lacking for a long time and this is further proof that things are not going to get better,” Jimmy Wooley of Seven Springs said in a May 29 Facebook post.
“Anybody skeptical of the move really didn’t know the situation we were truly in. We are in a ‘I want it right now society,’ but that’s not always feasible in high school sports at small schools,” Robinson said. “The program is moving in the right direction with the help of my staff, fellow coaches at school, booster club, our AD (athletic director), administration and, most importantly, I believe our parents are pleased with the move. It’s our job as coaches to keep it moving in the right direction.”
Spring Creek’s first football game will be Aug. 23 at Smithfield-Selma.