SPARTA, Mich. (WOOD) — Now in his fourth year as head football coach at Sparta, Mark Chapman tries to keep the message consistent.
“We did not come into this talking about wins and losses,” Chapman said. “We did not come into this talking about playoffs. We just talked about coming in and competing every single day.”
Sparta has done more than just compete this year. The Spartans are 7-1 and have locked up the school’s first postseason berth since 2013. It’s also the first winning season since 2011.
“It definitely feels good,” senior quarterback Jakel Davis said. “Being able to be the first team since two-thousand-whenever to make the playoffs.”
That’s just it. While the kids know the history books aren’t littered with postseason victories — the school’s only one coming in 2011 — the group is mindful of the foundation it is laying for future years. That’s thanks in large part to the students who played before them.
“It’s been a long journey. We definitely wouldn’t be here without the seniors and upperclassmen from when we came in,” senior lineman Logan Tidey said. “The seniors my freshman year were great. The seniors every year have been great and gotten us closer and closer to our goal. This year we’ve taken another step.”
It could easily have gone the other way after a Week 4 blowout loss to Grand Rapids Catholic Central. But proof of a program turning point is the four victories that followed, including a three-point win against Forest Hills Eastern. Now the group plans to make noise in the playoffs.
“The mentality shouldn’t be that much different now,” Tidey added. “We still have to go out there and win. We have to compete against great teams. We just gotta win.”
“They want to be one of the best teams in school history. They want to make their mark,” Chapman said. “I don’t have to say too much. These guys are motivated. They’re a great group of kids.”
“Now we got a playoff berth, I feel we have the whole community behind us,” Davis said.
Sparta takes on Allendale to round out the regular season before the playoffs begin next week.