Thursday, September 4, 2008

Blazers find their rhythm

Recently-installed offense now second nature for Timberline
By Grant Clark For The Olympian • Published September 03, 2008

It's called the Pistol Offense.

Take your quarterback and line him up three yards behind the center, then place your running back four yards behind the quarterback. Part Spread and part Single Wing with a dash of Option thrown in — the set-up gives the quarterback the advantage of reading defenses and making decisions on what he sees all the time utilizing play-action and motion.

Created by current Nevada coach Chris Ault, the Pistol can have as many as 30 plays run out of a single formation, making it confusing for defenses.

It also can leave those who are trying to learn it for the first time scratching their heads.

Nick Mullen figured this would be the case in 2007 — his first year as Timberline’s head coach.

“We knew it was going to take a while,” Mullen said about the unconventional offense. “It’s not something you just immediately grasp.”

Senior captain Ronnie Hamlin can attest to that.

“I really didn’t know much about the offense the first time I heard about it,” Hamlin said. “I knew it was kind of like shotgun because the quarterback wasn’t under center and there are some elements of the spread in it. That’s pretty much all I knew when I heard we were going to run it. Before the first game (last year) we were still trying to figure things out.”

Featuring a young group of first-time varsity players last year the Blazers were shut out four times and scored six points in two other games.

This shouldn’t be the case this season.

“It’s day and night different,” Mullen said when asked how far his players have progressed in terms of understanding the new offense since last season. “You could tell last season there was a lot of tentativeness during practices because it was new to them. We still have a ways to go, but they’re learning and improving. You can see how far they have come since last year.”

Despite the offensive woes in 2007, the Blazers still managed to finish in a three-way tie for third place in the Western Cascade Conference with North Thurston and Capital — forcing a mini-playoff to determine the league’s last postseason slot, which the Cougars won.

It marked the first time in the past five seasons that Timberline failed to win a league championship and make the Class 3A state playoffs, where they had advanced to the quarterfinals three times during that span.

A talented group of seniors could return the Blazers back to that familiar spot this season.

Leading the way will be the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Hamlin — Timberline’s do-it-all player who should be one of the area’s top playmakers.

“We know what we are doing out there,” Hamlin said. “We’ve been in this offense for a year now and the players understand it. I love being in it. I used to be just a receiver. Now I get to play a lot of positions on offense. I line up at slot; I get to run the ball, play wide receiver and block. I like that I get to change things up.”

As gifted as he is on offense, Hamlin might be a better defensive player. A physical hitter, he became the first Timberline player in more than a decade to earn first-team all-league honors as a defensive back as a junior.

“You just can’t say enough good things about this kid, the list is so long,” Mullen said. “He’s just a great kid and not just on the football field. He’s the type of person you like having around.”

Hamlin, however, isn’t Timberline’s only weapon on offense.

Returning are senior wide receivers Josh Taylor, Trevor Crump and John Ferreira, while Immanuel Garraway, a second-team selection at running back, will be the Blazers’ primary ball carrier and moves from linebacker to defensive end on the other side of the ball.

Up front J.K. Kaminanga, a second-team choice offensive lineman as a junior, is Timberline’s only returning starter. Two of the team’s top juniors should be Jonathan Schuster, who will play running back and linebacker, and Dylan Swanstrom, who moves from the line to linebacker and will also be the team’s punter.

“The team has worked hard over the summer,” Mullen said. “It’s a great group of kids who are really fun to coach. We’re looking forward to getting back out there and playing games.”


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Timberland (Blazers) High School - 6120 Mullen Drive SE - Lacey, WA 98513



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