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Spellman gets start against Liberty High

By Jared Green
Friday September 20, 2002

Junior Jeff Spellman will start at quarterback for Berkeley High in the Yellowjackets’ season opener tonight, head coach Matt Bissell confirmed Thursday. 

Spellman, a transfer from Bishop O’Dowd High in Oakland, beat out fellow junior Foster Goree and senior Dessalines Gant for the starting spot. Gant, however, will get some playing time against Liberty tonight no matter how well Spellman plays. 

Spellman was the starter for O’Dowd’s junior varsity team last season, while Goree ran Berkeley’s junior varsity. But Gant is the most physically talented of the trio and the coaches hope he can master the offense in time for league play. 

“We want to get Dez some time in the first few games, and hopefully he’ll emerge as the starter at some point,” offensive coordinator Clarence Johnson said. “No one is even close to him when it comes to arm strength.” 

Neither Spellman nor Goree has the arm strength to take full advantage of Berkeley’s speed at wide receiver, where Sean Young and Roberto McBean both run sub-4.5-second 40-yard dashes. Gant, who didn’t play football last season, is the only quarterback capable of hitting for big gains down the sidelines, where Young excelled last season. 

Gant, 6-foot-3, is also considerably taller than both of the juniors. Goree stands at 5-foot-9, while Spellman is 5-foot-8. 

“Foster’s not too tall, and Jeff’s even shorter than that,” Johnson said. “That’s an issue that won’t change.” 

If Spellman can lead the Jackets to an upset win over Liberty, however, he might just hang onto the starting job for a few more weeks. He’s confident he can get the job done. 

“I know I can run the offense,” Spellman said. “I ran the offense at O’Dowd the last two years without a problem. I just have to work hard, focus and find my rhythm.” 

While Spellman might end up being a temporary starter, Bissell certainly wants him to do well while he’s in the game. A win over Liberty would give the Jackets a much better start than last season’s 0-3 opening, and Bissell said he’s not looking for reason’s to pull his starter. 

“We’re going to give [Spellman] a shot and see what he can do,” Bissell said. “It’s our job to put him in a position where he can succeed.”