Thursday, August 27, 2009

Trickery is all the rage with Prescott's high school football team

Tiny school gains edge by fooling defenses
By Tim Leighton
Updated: 08/27/2009 12:32:35 AM CDT

PRESCOTT, Wis. — Cole Geiger approached the line of scrimmage as though he would take the snap during practice at Prescott High School. He wasn't there long.

Hey, where did he go?

After a flurry of activity, Geiger lined up in the slot as a receiver. After more shifting, bruising fullback Ty Stees took a direct snap and blew through a gaping hole for a long gain.

Hey, where did Stees come from?

And that was one of the easier plays to follow.

Welcome to Prescott's offense. Its primary emphasis is on befuddling an opponent.

"It's our version of the Wildcat,'' Geiger, a senior running back, said last week of the attack that features direct snaps to numerous players. "We make things pretty confusing for the other guys. We have all these trick plays. It is like backyard football you played as a kid.''

The offense, a throwback to the single wing, is one reason the community of just more than 4,000 is buzzing about the Cardinals making a run at the Middle Border Conference title and a state tournament berth for the first time since 2000.

"I know we are going to do something special this season,'' said senior lineman Taylor Palmer, one of 11 returning starters.

Thoughts of a postseason berth and winning season were a Hail Mary pass away two seasons ago, when the Cardinals trudged to a 0-9 record. Prescott used a Jet-Wing formation with some spread, but had little success.

"Guys were giving up,'' senior lineman Chris Krech said.

"Days were long, and practices were longer. There was no intensity. It was tough to survive.''
Said coach Jason Wolf: "To finish 0-9 is pretty humbling. It was one of the toughest things I've been through in my 16 years of coaching. We tried our best to remain positive and upbeat. I probably made the mistake of trying too hard. We had nine of our starters injured, and anything that could go wrong did.''

Wolf knew his team needed a jolt. It came in the form of changing the entire offense.

"Being the smallest school in the conference," Wolf said, "we had to do something.''

His brainstorm wasn't immediately embraced.

"I thought he was a little crazy,'' Krech said.

"I was really skeptical,'' Stees said. "But then we really warmed up to it quickly once we figured out the X's and O's.''

The Cardinals opened last season 3-0 en route to a 5-4 finish and just missed a playoff berth. In 2007, Prescott rushed for 744 yards during the conference season, near the bottom of the conference. In 2008, Prescott's more wide-open attack produced 1,580 yards rushing during the conference season, third in the conference. Geiger scored 10 touchdowns and averaged almost 7 yards a carry.

"All it took was that first win last year,'' said senior Zak Charette, who along with Geiger is a slash-type offensive player. "That woke some people up around here and got us back on track.''

The positive outlook from last season carried into a summer workout program, for which 28 of 37 players received awards, Wolf said.

With a season's experience of running the single wing, the Cardinals are trying to polish their footwork and trickery.

During a practice last week, Geiger shifted among three positions before a play that ended with Charette hitting him with a 30-yard pass that would have gone for a longer gain, if not a touchdown, if the play had continued. The play sent a jolt of excitement through the team.

Last season, Wolf didn't designate a quarterback — it wasn't necessary in his offense —which befuddled parents and the community. This season, he has labeled Geiger and Charette his quarterbacks.

"I did that to clean up any confusion in town,'' Wolf said.

"It never bothered me, but the parents were awfully confused,'' said Geiger, who rushed for more than 800 yards last season. "It was kind of funny.

"We have turned some heads. The atmosphere around here has really changed. More people are coming to our games now. We have a slight swagger, but we are still keeping our heads on straight. I think we have a good thing going here.''

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