The Sparkman football team is undefeated through the first half of the 2023 season by playing well on offense and defense. Photo Contributed

Sparkman Defense Post Four Shutouts- Offense Making Big Plays- Senators 5-0

Harvest- Prior to the current high school football season, Sparkman head coach Ronnie Watson set the tone of what he hoped would be the scope of what he wanted his program to become in his first season leading the Senators. He stated, “You buy in or bought out.”

His notice to all involved within the program seem to have paid off halfway through the 2023 campaign as the tenth ranked Senators are undefeated through five games and have four shutouts along the way outscoring their opponents by a remarkable 226-18. The lone team to score was Austin in a key Region 4 matchup which Sparkman won 21-18. All other challengers have come up with goose eggs on the scoreboard against a Sparkman defensive squad that the school has never seen before.

“These players have bought in and have come together as they set a lot of personal and team goals,” said Watson, who is in his 15th season on the coaching staff, his first as head coach, after 14 seasons on the defensive side of the ball. “They are executing the game plans our coaches have given them. This is what you want from a defense.”

The offense is coming off a tremendous 2022 season where it scored a team record 383 points, which was the top scoring offense in Class 7A across Alabama. In 2023, the defense is putting up numbers that haven’t been seen in decades, but in reality, this year’s performance is very similar to last season when the Senators opened the halfway mark at 4-1 including three shutouts, but then the wheels fell off losing four of their last five games and missing the post-season playoffs.

Leading the defense is its “quarterback” in middle linebacker Yves Ponder (5-8, 210). The senior hitter has 52 tackles including six tackles for a loss. He also had a fumble scoop for a score. Ponder added, “The move to have Coach Watson as our head coach was a really good move as he makes sure the defense is good and all of that started in the weight room during the off-season. As defensive leader, I make sure everybody is into what we’re doing.”

Ponder, who has had several schools look at his talent including Alabama A&M, Bethel College and Troy, described the defense of having a “dog” mentality of always going after the ball 100-percent. He also gave praise to his teammates of making big plays when needed, including Jamarion Matthews (DL, 5-8, 210, So.) who leads the team in sacks with nine, and Jayden Chambers (LB/DL, 6-1, 210, Jr.), who has added 31 tackles. Ponder said, “We are really good in the box, heavy on the run and we make our opponents throw the ball, but we have several great defensive backs waiting.”

“We simplified our defense and utilize the speed we have, as well as, having the maturity level of our players rise to the occasion,” said Watson. “These guys go get it. They play together and prepare daily. I have not seen a defense as cohesive as this one.”

The offense is also clicking to enormous success scoring 45 points per game and already twice putting up over 50 points on the scoreboard. Senior quarterback Josh Ward, “The Gardner,” has passed for over 600 yards and nine touchdowns hitting Jonathan Rozier (WR, 6-1, 180, Jr.), Amaree Jabbar (WR, 5-7, 165, Sr.) and Brodie Slate (WR, 6-3, 180, Sr.) with four scoring passes each while Drip Thomas has put up over 290 yards and six scores on the ground.

“Our special teams have played well giving us great field position many times,” added Watson.

“We really want to make a statement with our defense as odds were against us starting the season,” said Ponder. “We’re ready to get to the ball as people come out to see us play.”

The Senators will face the biggest test of the season with an Oct. 6 showdown in region foe James Clemens at Madison City Schools Stadium. Sparkman last won the region title in 2006 when the team had its first 10-game win season and playoff win.

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