Tuesday, September 22, 2009

'Unique' offenses to collide

Prep grid preview

By Dennis Grall ESCANABA - The antiquated single-wing collides with the new-fangled spread offense Friday in a battle of high-powered football offenses.

The No. 2 Gladstone Braves, who unveiled their spread version last season, host No. 3 Menominee and its' vaunted single-wing in the Great Northern Conference opener for both teams. It is Menominee's first game against a Michigan opponent this season.

Another GNC opener occurs at Escanaba, where the top-ranked Eskymos (3-0) host Marquette (0-3). In the Mid-Peninsula Conference Friday, Manistique (1-2) visits Norway (3-0).

At Menominee, coach Ken Hofer has claimed three state championships using an offense he has operated since 1964, posting an overall 293-118-3 record.

There is not much difference between the single-wing and the spread, the shotgun, run-and-shoot or the NFL Wildcat for that matter. They basically try to spread out the defense to open more seams and bigger holes for the backs and receivers.

Glenn (Pop) Warner is given vast credit for the single-wing, if not perhaps for inventing it but for popularizing it at Carlisle Indian School, which gained notoriety with legendary Jim Thorpe running wild nearly 100 years ago.

With Warner's version, and the one used by Hofer, slick backfield ball handling occurs behind pulling linemen operating in an unbalanced line.

The quarterback, primarily a blocking back who lines up several yards behind the line, is one of three or four players who can receive a direct snap from center.

Gladstone's spread snaps the ball directly to quarterback Ryan Jacques, who is about five yards behind the center, and either hands off to Kollin Jensen, runs the ball or passes.

"They are kind of unique offenses," said Gladstone coach Josh Mileski. "The spread has been the fad lately. The running game is blocked differently, but the cut back run is what both teams are looking for to get to the edge. Both (offenses) are trying to play games with numbers."

Mileski said the single-wing is difficult to defend "because they try to out-number you. It is all based on personnel. Their sweep and power is number one, our zone read blocking is number one. Everything is based off that."

Menominee, which usually relies more on power football, is 2-1 after a 35-14 loss to No. 6 Marshfield, Wis. last week. The Maroons beat Wrightstown, Wis. 21-7 and Spooner, Wis. 42-7.

The Maroons graduated six All-U.P. players from a 5-5 team and are starting four sophomores, virtually unheard of in Hofer's tenure. "It's sort of a mystery what we're going to do this year," Hofer said in the preseason.

Several running backs are being used, and after graduating the top five receivers, the Maroons lost a key returnee for the season with an ACL knee injury to James Graham.

Erik Hines is the prime receiver for the Maroons, who managed just 41 yards passing on six completions last week, from four throwers, and had three interceptions. Tyler Uecke ran for 68 of Menominee's 142 yards.

Jensen has already piled up 526 rushing yards as Gladstone's main weapon. Jacques, who primarily employs a vertical aerial game, has thrown for 302 yards and run for 107.

"They're not one dimensional, but most of the emphasis is on Jensen," said Hofer. "He has excellent balance, good speed and he finds the hole. They have four excellent receivers. They spread it around. Jacques is getting better and better."

At Escanaba, the Eskymos come off a rousing 24-21 victory at Antigo, Wis. that was not secured until Mitch VanEffen returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown with 3:10 to play.

He also ran out of the backfield for the first time this season, gaining 160 yards in 23 carries.

The Eskymos, starting an easy two-week stretch of a weak schedule, face a Marquette team that finally hit paydirt last week in a 35-8 loss to Cheboygan after losing 33-0 to 1-2 Sault Ste. Marie (which visits Esky next week) and 48-0 to Petoskey.

Jared Wales ended the point drought with 2:05 to play with a 6-yard run. The Redmen had 48 yards rushing and 19 passing.

Second-year coach Chris Soha said that 15-play, 53-yard drive could be a key for the Redmen. "Our players did not give up, they didn't lay down," he said.

Manistique beat Gwinn 34-13 last week on a pair of 99-yard scoring drives. Norway will provide a much stiffer test Friday.

Justin Fila had a game-opening 90-yard kickoff return in a 35-0 pasting of Newberry last week and also had TD runs of 29 and 16 yards. The Knights had four sacks, recovered two fumbles, intercepted a pass and blocked a punt for a touchdown.

Daily Press
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Escanaba, MI 49829


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