Jody Grooms' return to the sidelines Friday appeared to be a low-key affair.
The Lakeside coach jogged onto the field behind his players, slapped hands with assistant coach Jarret Troxler and adjusted his headset.
Between the headphones, Grooms was stirring.
"I was probably more nervous than I've ever been in my life," he said after his team's 34-14 loss to Glenn Hills. "I just wanted the kids to play well. And it was as much (the coaches') fault as their fault."
Grooms was coaching his first game since November, when an illegal play call set off a controversy that ended with his demotion as athletic director and a two-game suspension to start this season. He spent the first Friday of the season scouting and the second at home with his family.
Grooms said being away from the field was difficult.
"But you got to do what you got to do to make things right," he said
He now will shift his focus to make things right on the field.
The Spartans overcame two early turnovers Friday and outscored the Panthers 28-0 in the second half behind a strong rushing attack.
Glenn Hills coach Ernest Tolbert said he came out wanting to throw the ball and spread the field, but after two Spartans' interceptions led to two Panthers touchdowns, the game plan changed.
The Spartans rushed for nearly 300 yards and rolled over a Lakeside defense that was without its best player in the second half.
Panthers linebacker Kyle Tudor hurt his knee during a first-quarter kickoff, played two more defensive series and did not return.
Tudor said he had strained his right medial collateral ligament and thought he could miss at least the next two weeks.
After the game, he sat on the team's bench, unable to join his teammates in shaking hands at midfield. He said that the pain didn't bother him at first but that after the first series he could barely run.
"I didn't want to go out," he said. "We were stopping them every time."
Grooms said Tudor would be evaluated and that his status would be determined.
The coach's return started well.
Panthers defensive back Ricky McMurtey intercepted two Glenn Hills passes in the first half, both leading to Panthers touchdowns.
Lakeside quarterback Chad Chandler found receiver Levi Hanks wide open in the middle of the field on the first play of the second quarter for a 33-yard touchdown and a 14-0 Lakeside lead.
The Spartans manufactured a 14-play, 81-yard drive to get on the board before halftime.
The Spartans tied the game in the final minute of the third quarter and recovered a flubbed kick on the ensuing kickoff to start another scoring drive.
Three Spartans touchdown runs in the fourth quarter kept the Glenn Hills sideline giddy.
"We started out rough," Tolbert said. "But we smoothed out and started clicking."
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