HAMLET — Last year, Hamlet Middle School’s football team endured a pair of blowout losses to start the season before course correcting and winning its way to an appearance in the Southeastern Middle School Athletic Conference (SEMSAC) title game.
This season, the Red Rams look to build on that success under first year head coach Kevin Alfonso.
The Red Rams appear to have strength in numbers. In middle school, it’s not uncommon for teams to be small with a handful of players remaining on the field the entire game filling roles on offense, defense and special teams.
Hamlet started with nearly 30 athletes five weeks ago and have added even more to the roster after school started.
“I’ve been really blessed with the numbers we have this year,” Alfonso said. “I really hit the hallways after school started and have added about 12 or 13 more to what we started with. Right now, we’re set to have around 41 players. Last year, they dressed about 25.”
While the deeper roster has its benefits, it has brought with it one problem – albeit a good one.
“Luckily, I have a lot of guys that are pushing each other to the top,” Alfonso said. “Nobody is really standing out because I have so many guys who are capable right now. It’s a good problem, but we’ve got some decisions to make. We’re even still trying to narrow down the quarterback situation.”
In middle school, most players want to be in skill positions, but most coaches, players and fans stand by the philosophy that football is won at the line of scrimmage. Alfonso served as the offensive line coach for Richmond Senior High’s junior varsity football program for the last five years, so he understands this all too well.
“We have some that actually want to play line, but the ones that want to play line want to play D-line,” Alfonso explained. “The key is getting them to understand that there is a big correlation between offensive and defensive linemen.
“They both want to do the same things. They want to put their hands on you first. They want to get their steps on the ground first. They want to be more physical than you. The basic fundamentals of offensive line and defensive line are very similar.”
While the goal of winning is always there, Alfonso, along with assistant coaches Matt Sellers, Gary Chavis, Marty Jeansonne and Braxton Butler are working to teach fundamentals and develop players so that when it’s time to hang up their Hamlet red and black uniforms, they’ll be ready for Richmond Senior’s green and gold.
“After coaching at Richmond, I know what it takes at that level,” Alfonso explained. “I’m trying to give them a head start towards that. I want to bring back that middle school – junior high school football tradition that we used to have. I’d love to see that come back.”
Hamlet, along with the other area middle school football teams, will see its first action at the middle school jamboree next Wednesday, Sept. 14 at Spring Hill Middle School. The Red Rams currently have a bye in week one (September 21), but with two open dates on the schedule, Alfonso hopes to add one more game.
Hamlet will travel to Sandy Grove on Sept. 28, then to Cordova on Oct. 5. Following a bye on Oct. 12, the Red Rams will finally get to play their home opener against Anson on Oct. 19. They’ll close out the season with two more home games against Carver on Oct. 26 and rival Rockingham on Nov. 2.