Coach Lee looks back on Spartan football season
By Mark Robinson
On Tuesday, Nov. 17, Greenbrier East’s Coach Ray Lee took some time to talk about the football season that just ended. Some of his comments:
“It was a team that set goals right from the beginning of the year. We had a couple of tough losses at the beginning of the season. We dropped the first game to James Monroe, then bounced back against Beckley, and then Shady. Then, we went on a downslide. We had a tough loss to Musselman, and a big shootout game with Bluefield. It was a bounce back from that part of the season. In the second half of the season, since we didn’t accomplish what we wanted the first half, the guys set goals, basically one game at a time. We didn’t look past anyone, and pretty much achieved the goals that we set out to achieve.”
About the offense:
“When you’ve got a player like Zayvion playing for you, Zayvion Lawson was a mainstay all year long. Someone we knew we could put the ball in his hands and things would happen. Then, when we got to the point where people start keying on him, we have hidden weapons that people don’t know about. Colby Johnson. Carr can throw the ball and run the ball. Shy Atkinson, he comes in with explosive speed. Josh McClung. Hunter Kirby. Our offense is built so if you key on one person, then there’s someone else we can go to.”
About developments through the season:
“The first half of the season, defensively, we weren’t stopping people, so we got together as a coaching staff and started talking about what we can do to get our defense more in tune, so we can stop people. We made a couple of personnel changes, to a point where we put a lot of fresh legs on the field, had a lot of people in the right position to make plays. Then, we started moving people around, as opposed to just sitting still. We always had guys moving around, giving different looks on defense. I think that was a big key to the success in the second half of the season, were some of the changes we made on defense.
“We were proud of the way those guys played. We started moving people around. We had mainstays like Joe Powell at linebacker, Jarrod Wiley at defensive end, Daylon Colley playing linebacker, Jaylon Battaile playing another defensive end. Colby Johnson on defense, Jonathan Carr playing free safety, Shy Atkinson subbing in. Billy Honaker at corner, Jared Morgan at another corner. You got guys you have confidence in to stop the pass. When teams wanted to throw at us, we had standout corners with Billy Honaker and Jared Morgan.
“We had Zac Yates playing the nose guard position, with his quickness he was hard to stop and hard to block. And then we had Jacob Scott playing tackle. We had some pretty good guys on defense, when we started moving people around. Making those plays, keeping the offensive teams guessing about what we’re going to do, showing different formations.”
On rebuilding for next year:
“We are graduating 17 seniors. Out of those 17 seniors, maybe nine, 10, 11 of those guys are contributors. That’s something we’ve got to replace. The guys coming up behind them have gotten some experience at playing. Now it’s going to be their turn. A lot of the backups have had some Friday night lights time, and they are hungry and they’re ready to play. Everything is always rebuilding. We give our guys a lot of playing time, so they get used to it, and they’re not just sitting and doing nothing.”
On the fan support:
“When we were leaving town to go to the playoff game, we saw people holding signs and banners by the road. The kids had a blast with that. It’s good to see the community get involved.
“We are proud of what we’ve accomplished. I posed the question to them one day, I said, ‘Who in here is 18 years old?’ Maybe five guys. I asked, ‘Who in here is 17?’ A few hands go up. The rest of them are 16 and under. I said, ‘You have never seen a playoff team here throughout your entire life. Now, think about what you’re getting ready to do right now: something you grew up not seeing, and now all of a sudden, it happens, and you’re the ones who made it happen.
“That’s a great thing to be a part of … hey, let’s keep this thing going. Make it a tradition that Greenbrier East is back, and keep it to a point to where people want to come out and support it. So when we see people by the side of the road, that was great. It was an excitement. You know, that’s something we haven’t seen for a while. Something you can be proud of, to be a part of it.”