SMS football sets sights on another flawless season

For Jesse Bare and Tim Clauson, two teachers at Selbyville Middle School, it’s all about the students. In the classroom, they help students excel in learning, but what they accomplish outside the classroom is even more impressive.

As head coach of the middle-school football team for the fifth consecutive year, Bare obviously understands what it means to be a successful mentor. He has done what no one else in the state has done: captured three undefeated seasons with a middle-school team in the last four years.

Bare started as defensive coordinator with the team, four years prior to his move to the head coaching position. Accompanied by Clauson, who has also contributed to the team’s success for nearly a decade, and five-year assistant coach Sam O’Shields, Bare hopes to repeat his 7-0 record from 2007, as his team straps on their helmets and slips on their pads for 2008.

“We always try to encourage the kids to do what they want,” said Bare. “It’s amazing what these athletes bring, both in the classroom and on the field.”

Working with a middle-school team poses significant challenges compared to that of a varsity high school team, as coaches and teammates have but a few years to work with each other.

“The middle-school programs are difficult,” said Bare. “You’re only seeing these kids for two years, rather than four. You never know from one year to the next how a team is going to be.”

Within the Indian River School District, middle-school football teams are restricted to seventh- and eighth-graders. As of last year, all other middle-school sports introduced sixth-graders to the rosters, though football remained exclusive to the eldest students, with concern about the children’s safety.

There is one thing for certain, though, no matter what the age.

“Schools like Woodbridge and Laurel always guarantee tough competition,” Bare said. “Both schools share a strong Pop Warner program and a successful coaching staff.”

SMS will look to begin their season playing Laurel on the Sept. 18 opener. Sussex Central and Seaford also have good competition, he noted.

The success of the undefeated football team last year — as well as Selbyville Middle’s basketball and baseball teams — owes a combined tribute to the knowledgeable coaching staff and sheer talent coming through the program.

Last year’s quarterback, Jamie Jarmon, entered Indian River as a freshman this year, already working his way up to the starting quarterback position in the Indians’ opener against Cape Henlopen this week. Defensive corner Dewand Handy has also had some practices with the Indians’ first squad. In fact, this year’s varsity at Indian River comprises players from all three undefeated seasons at SMS.

“Jamie [Jarmon] and the guys have really worked hard through middle school,” said Clauson. “It’s tough when you take a season like we had two years ago, but the players took their dedication to the sport seriously. It really shows what they’re made of. We have a lot of athletes that work hard to win. Winning has become a sort of tradition with our school.”

Selbyville Middle bounced back last year, repeating what they did in the falls of 2004 and 2005, after turning a surprising 3-3-1 record two seasons back.

“It’s great to see guys at that age able to regain their composure,” said Bare. “It’s great to be a part of that.”

Despite talent moving onto the big fields that lie behind the larger schools, there are plenty hoping to bring back another winning record to Selbyville Middle.

“We only have two or three starters returning on our offense,” Bare noted, “and only four or five starters on our defense, but we have a strong team.”

“We’re filling in those spots with focused players,” Clauson added. “We’re optimistic this year. We have a lot of skill positions and overall team speed.”

At the middle-school level, speed and size are key. Clauson adheres to his in-game philosophy of setting up the passing with the run.

“When we had Jamie [Jarmon],” he said, “we were unstoppable. He was a rare quarterback that really understood the game. We’re going to run the ball, set up our throwing game and see where we stand this year.”

Selbyville Middle will get their chance to test the waters as they play Providence Creek, Dover and Sussex Central in scrimmages through the upcoming week.

“These are Division I schools,” noted Clauson. “It prepares you when you face teams like this at the start.”

Bare is looking forward to switching up the medium.

“The scrimmages will be good,” he said, “because our guys will be moving around, and it gives the athletes a chance to hit other players. You can start to get confident when you hit the same guy every day.”

Conditioning was another aspect of the game Clauson stressed.

“We’re going to make sure our guys are ready and in shape,” he said. “We’re going to pace ourselves and stick to the game plan. All we have to do is stay with what we know.”