Saturday, October 24, 2009

Apopka devours rival East Ridge

By Jeff Gardenour
October 24, 2009

APOPKA — Apopka's talented and speedy underclassmen made sure the Blue Darters' senior night was a memorable one on Friday.

With last year's regular-season loss to East Ridge perhaps still fresh in the minds of Apopka's players, the Class 6A, third-ranked Blue Darters zipped past the Knights 56-14 in a key District 5 game.

"I'm kind of surprised," Apopka Coach Rick Darlington said. "They are a heck of a well-coached team. It was a good night for us."

Led by junior quarterback Keon Brooks, junior running back Tom Smith and sophomore running back Quay Barnes, unbeaten Apopka (7-0, 4-0) utilized the big play in remaining undefeated and in first place in the district. East Ridge (4-3, 2-2) has now lost two consecutive games.

Smith rushed 18 times for 133 yards and two touchdowns and caught two touchdown passes, and Brooks ran seven times for 114 yards and completed 4-of-8 passes for 95 yards and two scores as Apopka forced a running clock midway through the third quarter.

"This was real big," Brooks said. "We came out with intensity and were excited to play."

Brooks threw touchdown passes of 41 and 37 yards to Smith, and ran for touchdowns of 71 and 4 yards.

"They just physically kicked our fanny the entire night," East Ridge Coach Bud O'Hara said.

Barnes' kickoff return followed a 92-yard kickoff return by East Ridge's Fred Maxwell and was part of a wild four-touchdown flurry in the final 1 minute, 45 seconds of the first half.

Apopka's scoring burst helped it overcome a brief 7-0 deficit.

Apopka (7-0, 4-0) and Olympia (5-2, 4-0) are now the two teams tied for first in 6A, District 5. They meet next Friday at Olympia.

Apopka 56, East Ridge 14

FIRST — ER: Payen 39 run (Seaman kick); A: T. Smith 41 pass from Brooks (Catron kick); A: Brooks 71 run (kick failed).
SECOND — A: Brooks 4 run (T. Smith run); A: T. Smith 63 run (Catron kick); ER: Maxwell 92 kickoff return (Seaman kick); A: Barnes 98 kickoff return (Catron kick); A: T. Smith 37 pass from Brooks (Catron kick).
THIRD — A: T. Smith 14 run (Catron kick).
FOURTH — A: Capobianco 32 run (Catron kick).

Orlando Sentinel
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Friday, October 23, 2009

Wildcat offense not as innovative as some think

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 2:46 PM
Anders Larson is a ThisWeek staff writer. He can be reached at

If you've watched at least one hour of ESPN's coverage of the NFL over the past week, you've probably heard that Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano is the innovator of all innovators.

Sparano, along with offensive coordinator Dan Henning, is responsible for implementing the now-popular Wildcat offense in the NFL.

The Dolphins began using the scheme last year, but they aren't the only team using it now. It seems almost every team in the league has some variation on the theme, which they use on occasion. More and more, the offense is getting widespread use at the college and high school levels.

By now, there are plenty of fans out there, including me, who are growing tired of all the hype. But no one is more frustrated than the good folks of the Single-Wing Sentinel, a blog for enthusiasts of the nearly-defunct offensive system. If there was any precedent for copyright infringement for football schemes, the Single-Wing Sentinel likely would be seeing the Dolphins' lawyers in court right now.

The blog, which finds and republishes articles from around the country about single-wing teams, recently featured a column by Ron Grillo of the Rocky Mount (N.C.) Telegram. Grillo pulled no punches:

"Folks, the "Wildcat" has been around for more than a century. It probably deserves the title as football's first offense. It has, however, before last season, been referred to as the single wing."

Oh, (shotgun) snap! Take that Sparano.

Grillo acknowledges that the modern Wildcat is not an exact replica of the single-wing, but he goes on to explain that the basic premise of both offenses is the same: snap the ball to your best runner, not your best thrower.

Upper Arlington coach Mike Golden said he sees the similarities, although he hasn't seen a team in central Ohio run a true single-wing consistently since Northland in the 1970s.

"I'm so old I can remember when a few teams ran it," Golden said. "(The Wildcat) is a little more sophisticated than that. The single wing was a little more of a lead. The quarterback would spin around and do all this stuff. But I think it's a fair comparison."

Regardless, there is no denying that the Wildcat, even if it is just a variation on the oldest offense in the game, has made an impact. Golden is one of many coaches around the area who have used a variation of the Wildcat this season. UA, in fact, used the scheme quite a bit last season with Alex Drake, normally one of the team's starting tailbacks, taking the snap.

"Last year, before our first game (starting quarterback Kyle Cassady) got hurt," Golden said. "We had three great running backs and we couldn't get them in there in the same set. So we would put Alex in at quarterback and kept Tommy Farwick and Isaac Wildermuth in the game at running back."

Gahanna, Columbus Academy and Thomas Worthington are among several other teams to use the system with success this fall. Thomas uses its variation, the "bad bird," about 10 percent of the time, with running back Eric Monfort taking the snap.

Academy broke the Wildcat out of its playbook for the first time in a 27-19 win over Newark Catholic on Oct. 2, with tailback Austin Peterman taking the snaps.

Gahanna has used the package to get the ball in the hands of Earl Cunningham, one of its fastest players. In a 42-31 loss to Lancaster on Sept. 25, Cunningham, who has played tailback and wide receiver this season, ran for 76 yards and a touchdown and also completed a 40-yard pass.

"For us, it puts an athlete in a position to do more than hand off or throw a pass," Gahanna coach John Snoad said. "It makes you more difficult to defend. With most teams, unless you're just running triple-option all game, the quarterback is just going to hand off or throw a pass."

Even Snoad labeled the term "Wildcat" as "just a catch-phrase," saying that this type of offense has been around for a while. Golden said he only looks to add a new wrinkle like this to his playbook if it doesn't significantly alter the blocking schemes already in place. The Golden Bears' standard wing-T offense has enough similarities to the Wildcat to make it work.

There has been some debate about how long the Wildcat will last before it fades away like many trendy systems of the past. Snoad and Golden said this type of offense certainly can work at the high school level for years to come. The talking heads at ESPN said they believe the next evolution is to incorporate the pass into the Wildcat more frequently. Eventually, the same player could take the snap every play if he was dangerous enough as a passer to keep the defense honest.

At that point, you would have a system with the team's primary runner taking a shotgun snap, using misdirection and fake handoffs and occasionally throwing the ball.

The guys at the Single-Wing Sentinel probably can suggest an offense that fits those criteria.

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Don Shula enjoys team, Wildcat


The man with the record for most career coaching victories in NFL history (and the NFL season record for fewest coaching losses) likes a lot about this year's Dolphins. And that includes the Wildcat.
What do you expect from a former single-wing tailback who loves physical running games that eat up yards and time on the way to the end zone?

While waiting to give blood at Tuesday's Touchdown for Life blood drive at Land Shark Stadium, Hall of Fame coach Don Shula couldn't help cracking a smile when talking about this year's Dolphins (2-3).

``I think we've got it turned around,'' said Shula, 79, whose offseason trip to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan made him ineligible to be among the 1,003 blood donors. ``I like our running game and I like the young quarterback [Chad Henne]. [Quarterback Chad] Pennington going down was a severe blow because this guy was a great leader and a great teacher. Henne had a year to learn under him. That's going to show up. He had a great career at Michigan, having a year to learn here and then stepping in and winning that game against the Jets. Had to be one of the great Monday night games. It caught the attention of a lot of people. I think everybody around the league gained respect for the Dolphins.

``Now, they're back on track and they're going to win a lot from here on in.''


Although The Wildcat is a departure from the standard set of formations in use over the past 50 years in NFL and college football, anybody expecting Shula to frown upon it as a gimmick doesn't know football history, or Shula history. As Shula pointed out, so much of the Wildcat comes straight out of Single Wing 101 -- the formation, the snap to the tailback, the motion from the wingback and the handoff, or fake handoff, by the tailback.

``In high school, we used to line up in a T and shift to a single wing,'' he said. ``I was the T-formation quarterback, and then I'd be the tailback in the single wing.''

``That was a long time ago. I don't think I could handle that now,'' he laughed. ``At one time, they called it the Delaware Wing-T or the Delaware offense. When I first started coaching at the University of Virginia, that was the offense we used, the Delaware Wing-T. It's about utilizing your personnel to the best of their abilities. You've got to analyze the personnel you've got, put them in a position where you can get the most out of their abilities and don't ask people to do what they're not capable of doing.''

Fans and media often forget that is what Shula did when he came to the Dolphins from the Baltimore Colts. In Baltimore, Shula had Johnny Unitas, so the Colts threw the ball more than was common in that pound-it-out era. When he came to the Dolphins in 1970, he found several good running backs (Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, Mercury Morris), a smart, unselfish quarterback in Bob Griese and traded for a deep threat in Paul Warfield. The Dolphins spent the next five seasons battering defenses, throwing the occasional play-action pass and hogging time of possession.

So Shula figures, as the Dolphins coaching staff did last year, the Wildcat is just a way to get the ball in the hands of the Dolphins' best offensive players, running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.


``You'd have to spend a lot of time [preparing for it] because of what they do because of the talent they have doing it,'' said Shula, a defensive coordinator before becoming an NFL head coach. ``They have two very, very good running backs. Ronnie Brown can throw the football as well, I don't think Ricky can throw it, but Ricky can catch it and that gives them another threat, him going downfield to catch the ball thrown by Ronnie Brown.''

• The Dolphins confined their trade-deadline day activity to signing offensive tackle Lydon Murtha off Detroit's practice squad and waiving guard Shawn Murphy.

Detroit took Murtha, a 6-7, 315-pounder, in the seventh round this year out of Nebraska and signed him to the practice squad after he was a victim of the last round of training camp cuts.

This year's training camp turned out to be the peak of Murphy's Dolphins career. After being inactive for all 16 regular-season games last year, Murphy, a fourth-round pick in 2008, began training camp with the first team. But as Donald Thomas, selected two rounds after Murphy in 2008, recovered from his torn pectoral injury, he also began recovering the right guard spot he had won in the 2008 training camp.

By the time the season started, Murphy was back to inactive status, where he remained for all five games.

Miami Herald Media Company


Miami Dolphins Coach Tony Sparano's Oct. 21 teleconference

By The Times-Picayune
October 21, 2009, 6:20PM

Provided by the New Orleans Saints, here is the transcript of Miami Dolphins Coach Tony Sparano’s teleconference with the New Orleans media.

A lot is being made of the Wildcat. What makes it so effective for you guys?

“I think the people that are handling the football for us. Certainly with Ronnie (Brown), Ricky (Williams), Pat (White), with any of the people handling the football, Pat Cobbs before his injury … Any of the people handling the football for us were people that we trusted, and second of all that I think are pretty good players. I also think that there’s some misdirection involved in the Wildcat. It helps create a few blocking angles for the people up front.”

Is it the single wing or a derivative of the single wing?

“No. I would say it’s an offshoot of the single wing. I think that some of the things we are doing are a little bit different than the good old single wing. I would say it’s a little bit different.”

Do you guys take pride in that a lot of teams try to replicate and duplicate this offense, but you guys are the most successful?

“I don’t think we take great pride in anybody else running it, particularly when it shows up against us at times. I do think from our end, the guys take great pride in it. It’s something that we’ve been able to put our arms around here. It’s a small part of what we do. It’s not everything we do, but it certainly gets a lot of attention.”

What went through your mind in deciding to run it?

“I think we are just looking for a little bit of an identity at the time. We were 0-2. We had just gotten beaten pretty badly by Arizona at Arizona and this was something that we had spent some time working on at OTAs in the spring, no different than probably anybody else spends some time working on some things they’re not sure that they’re going to run during the season. At that time, Ronnie Brown was coming off of an ACL, Ricky coming off of a shoulder surgery. We weren’t sure if we had the pieces or not. After the Arizona ballgame we knew a little bit more obviously about our team. We were trying to get Ricky and Ronnie on the field at the same time, and this was the way to do that and at the same time help our offensive line create a little bit of space.”

Did the success of the package in college get you and your staff thinking about running it?

“Sure, if it was something that had no success, I wouldn’t be all for it one way or the other. I’m one of those guys that needs evidence. I need to see it to believe it. We studied the tape; we look at some of the options we thought we might have had to get this thing run. Our problem was we had no idea about how people were defending it and we still don’t have any idea how people defend it, meaning every week, there’s something different. We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve.”

Since repetitions are at a premium at a practice, is part of the strategy to force an opponent to spend practice time on it?

“Sure. I think you have to spend some time on it no different than the time we have to spend on the amount of play-action pass that people might have in any of those things that people are doing. You take a look at what the opponent is doing and how much they’re doing it, and that’s the amount of time you can afford to spend on it. Just because we run the Wildcat and maybe we run it nine or 10 plays, doesn’t mean you can devote 30 or 40 reps during the week at it. I think it’s a little bit hard to do that, but you do have to spend time on it.”

While you watch other teams try to defend it, do you also have to stay ahead of the curve offensively?

“Yes, the nice thing about it, and I think one of the things that helped us this year, is that we had about 100 plays whereas it was on film for the whole league to see last year. They were studying it, which I’m sure everybody did in the offseason as we went out in preseason and some of these things. The more people you see running it across the league, the more evidence there is on tape of how some people might do something against it. When we get in a game for whatever reason it never quite looks the same.”

Are you surprised or do you have a response to when some analysts knock it or say it isn’t real football?

“Nothing surprises me anymore. I think that what I’ve learned in this league is yards are hard to come by, so are wins. Any way we can get yards and get closer to wins, we’re going to do it. I really could care less about what anyone else has to say.”

When you put on the tape and watch the Saints on offense and defense, what is the one thing that jumps out at you?

“I think their team speed is one of the things that jumps out at you, also the fact that they are a very physical team on both sides of the football. I think their front on defense is very, very physical. I think their front seven people do an outstanding job against the run, and they get after you pretty good in the pass game. I think on the other side of the ball that offensive line is really a physical group. They do a nice job in there, a good hardball run game that they got going and do a great job of protecting the passer. I think those are the things that jump out at you, never mind the weapons. I think they have so many weapons down there, and to me it all starts with the quarterback. He’s an outstanding player.”

How has Chad Henne handled the transition into the starting role? Did him starting for four years at Michigan help?

“I hope so. I think it did. I think that one of the things is, it’s more with these college kids coming out of these big programs like Chad has, they’ve played in some big football games before, so the first time you roll them out there and they’re in front of a big crowd. That is really the issue. What might be the issue is the team speed you’re playing against, certainly the level of player. Even there, with Michigan playing Ohio State or any of those people you would think it’s a pretty darn good competition out there on the field. I think that’s been certainly a help, but I think one of the biggest helps that Chad Henne has had here is that I think he is really well coached, and I think Chad Pennington did a marvelous job in helping with this process.”

What helped lead to your team’s turnaround?

“I think our players have done a good job of staying the course and keeping their head down. They understand that hard work is what gets you there. They understand that the way to turn things around is to put your head down and keep grinding. Out on the practice field there are some things we know we need to get better at as a football team. We continue to try to do that each week as we go along. Some of those football games, could have, should haves, would haves, all those good things. We felt like we did some decent things in some of those games, but we didn’t win, and at that time as I told them, we’re a 0-3 football team. You are what your record says you are. You’re a 0-3 team. We had to do something to change it. These guys to their credit, just kept grinding away and never lost focus on what we were trying to do, never worried about the second guessing and all those things, just kept their head down and concentrated on one win at the time, and that was against Buffalo.”

What does a happy and healthy Ricky Williams mean to your program?

“It means a bunch. I think first of all, the relationship that Ricky and Ronnie (Brown) have back there is outstanding. The fact that Ricky, since the day I walked through the door here, my slate was clean with him, as I said, it was 0-0 kind of coming into this thing, and Ricky has done nothing but be an outstanding professional since the day I walked through the door here, so I think what it does for our football team is it gives us another veteran leader on this team that has been through some of this before and sets a real good example for our young players.”

Is he playing at the best level you’ve been at right now?

“Yes, he really is. A long time ago, I had a chance to play him in Thanksgiving day when I was in Dallas. Sean (Payton) was with me on that staff at the time. Ricky ran up and down the field that day, just killed us. Getting a chance to see him right now with two full offseason programs under his belt, certainly I think he’s in the best shape he’s been in an awful long time. I think that this right now that time is the best I’ve seen him.”

You spent time with Sean in Dallas. Is there too much made sometimes of coaches that have a lot of familiarity with each other?

“I’m sure it is. Sean, first of all, I have a great deal or respect for him, and I know he knows that. I have not been with Sean in a few years and he has not been with me in a few years. They’re doing different things. He has his team going one way. I’m trying to get my team going in that direction. We have been together for a little while. We’re good friends, but I think some of that stuff can get overplayed?”

What’s one memory that stands out about Coach Payton?

“Sean and I. There’s a few. I should keep those to myself.”

If I forced you to use one word to describe him, what word if you were describing him to another person that had no idea who he was, what would the word be?


Would you consider him an evil genius on offense?

“I consider him an evil genius, yes.”

You look at the New England game last year and that’s when the Wildcat burst on the scene. Are there games where you haven’t used it?

“Yes. There’s been some games that we haven’t used it. Maybe we didn’t think via film we had the right look, those types of things, but usually if we’re preparing it, we’ll put it out there for a player to see how people do. It just depends on how things are going in the course of the game and how people defend it with whether or not we use it. We might have two plays worth, we might have 15 plays worth. We might have no plays.”

Do you want to tell us how many plays you’re going to run it against New Orleans?

“Definitely not.”

Last year Miami might have snuck up on teams. Do you see teams treating you any differently?

“I don’t really think so. I think the last year, coming off a 1-15 season and trying to get things going in the right direction, whether we snuck up on people, we didn’t sneak up on people. It’s my feeling initially that if you show up and your teams not prepared to play than shame on you. I just think that in some of those ballgames our guys really had to grind into the fourth quarter to win games. I don’t want to take anything away from my players. I think that my players do a tremendous job in doing that to change the culture. You guys went through it down there yourselves and now you’re sitting in a situation that’s pretty darn good. When you’re trying to change a culture, you need to give your players some credit. I don’t do it very often, but in that case, I will. The NFL set them up for us and we were able to go out and play the games and do what we needed to do and win some football games. Here we are a year later and whatever they say, toughest schedule, whatever the case is, that’s what you do this for. We’re in the business of trying to win football games. Whatever it takes for us to do that, we’re going to try to do that and we’re not really worried about who we’re playing or any of those things.”

Is one of the benefits of the Wildcat being able to maximize what you have playerwise?

“Sure. Anytime I can get Ricky (Williams), Ronnie (Brown), any of those people out there at the same time, that helps me instead of worrying about how many touches somebody’s going to get here, there or any of those types of things. So, I have Ricky, Ronnie, my quarterback. I have all of those people out there. That helps me.”

The Times-Picayune


Conery Carries Load With 202 Yards And Four TD's

Conery Carries Load With 202 Yards And Four TD's Against Winless Marines
An obvious game plan heading into Saturday’s 103rd M & M Game for the Menominee Maroons would have been to pass all over Marinette’s inexperienced defense.

Marinette’s admitted weakness was, in fact, their pass coverage, and the Maroons had an ever-so-dangerous aerial combination in Keefer Conery and Erik Hines.

But after Marinette showed they were capable of putting together scoring drives, the Maroons had to try to keep the Marine offense off the field as well as move the ball on offense.

The result was a 314-yard rushing performance from the old-fashioned single wing offense and a 27-20 Menominee victory.

Menominee held the ball for 22 more plays than Marinette (72-50) and racked up a total of 407 yards.

Conery was a big part of the offense, but it wasn’t his arm.

The junior speedster carried the ball 33 times for 202 yards and scored all four of Menominee’s touchdowns.

Some of his runs were designed passes that turned into scrambles, and some were designed draws to deceive the defense.

Either way the ability to throw and the speed to hit the corner allowed Conery and the Maroons to control the tempo, the clock and eventually the ball game.

“They got success early on and we just couldn’t slow them down,” admitted Marinette coach Joel Hanner. “They just kind of teed off. We tried to move our kids a little bit but Menominee just came off (the ball) and took it to us.”

It was no easy task beating the winless Marines.

“We had to keep the ball because they were moving the ball well against us,” recalled Maroon coach Ken Hofer.

Marinette gained 295 yards on just 50 plays, a hefty 5.9-yard per play average.

When Menominee scored early in the first quarter, Marinette didn’t bat an eye and responded with a scoring drive.

The Marines held a 14-13 lead at the half and were up 20-19 halfway through the third quarter.

The game was as close as the final score indicates, if not even closer.

But Menominee, perhaps due to Marinette players fatiguing or maybe because of just an attitude of success this season, won a standstill of a fourth quarter and got back on the winning side in the classic.

Marinette, trailing 19-14 at the half, put together 13-play, 5:39 drive to take a 20-19 lead.

A couple of crucial penalties and a 4th-and-2 conversion kept Menominee’s drive alive, and the Maroons regained the lead with a 14-play drive of their own.

Marinette went three-and-out on their next possession and committed a pair of unnecessary personal foul penalties to set Menominee up with a short field.

The Maroons turned the ball over on downs deep in Marinette territory, but the Marines again shot themselves in the foot and never could get back into Menominee territory.

“Marinette’s not an 0-7 team,” Hofer said of the Marines, who fell to 0-8 on the year. “They are an 0-7 team because they made crucial errors that cost them a lot of opportunites.”

Marinette made their share of errors in the game, especially late in the first half.

After the Maroons had taken a 19-14 lead, Marinette was driving nicely, picking up 32 yards on six plays.

Facing a 3rd-and-7, Marine quarterback Cody Murphy faced a heavy blitz and fired an off-balance throw that was intercepted by (who else?) Conery in a diving effort.

Conery would give it back to the Marines after rolling out of the pocket and throwing one over Hines and right to Kyle Johnson, but two plays later Isaac Jones stripped Murphy and the Maroons recovered.

Both Marinette turnovers in the game came in a tight ball game in the second quarter inside the Menominee 30-yard line.

Four plays into the first quarter, the Maroons looked poised for a blowout victory.

Conery found Hines on second down for 11 yards to move the chains, and two plays later broke the arm tackles of the Marinette defense on his way to a 51-yard touchdown.

The kick failed but just 1:46 into the contest, the Maroons held a 6-0 lead.

It was put up or shut up time for the Marines, and they responded nicely.

Sophomore Kyle Keller, whose season has been mired by injury and illness, made his presence known in his first-ever M & M game.

He was a key part of Marinette’s 8-play, 2:39 drive that tied the game.

Fellow sophomore Matt Mayhew picked up 11 yards on first down and Keller followed with five.

A rare senior to senior combination followed as Murphy found Steve Oman for a 21-yard gain and another first down.

Murphy picked up five yards on the next play before Keller bounced off several tackles for a 24-yard gain.

With the ball at the Menominee 19, Keller bulldozed his way through more Maroon defenders to the Menominee 7.

Three yards later the Marines were facing a second-and-goal from the four and freshman Dakota Vanidestine got his first carry and punched it into the endzone.

The kick failed but just 4:27 into the M & M Game it was obvious defense was not going to be the main focus of either team.

Menominee put together another scoring drive despite committing a pair of false start penalties.

Tyler Uecke grabbed 11 yards on first down and got 12 more two plays later to move the Maroons near midfield.

Conery picked up two yards before a false start moved the Maroons back, and Uecke got four to set up 3rd-and-9 from the Menominee 49.

Conery went to the air and connected with Erik Gilbert for 19 yards, and the two would hook up on a 35-yarder later in the drive down to the Marine 2.

Conery needed two plays to get the remaining two yards, and Luke Vincent’s extra point made it 13-6 in favor of Menominee.

Before scoring from a yard away, Conery fumbled the ball out of the endzone but it was ruled he stepped out of bounds before losing the ball, and Menominee retained possession at the Marinette 1.

Marinette again wasted no time scoring and Menominee once more showed no ability to stop them.

On the drive’s first play, Murphy pitched to his right to Vanidestine, who stayed in the backfield and unleashed a pass to another sophomore in Calvin Michiels, who had gotten behind the defense.

Michiels ended up picking up 42 yards on the play down to the Menominee 19.

Keller got 15 yards over the next two plays, Vanidestine was stopped just short on first-and-goal from the four, and Murphy punched in despite being mobbed by the Maroon defense on a quarterback sneak.

Murphy threw a perfect fade route to the 6-3 Oman in the corner, and the senior tight end outjumped Menominee’s Jeff Martin (5-7) for the conversion and a 14-13 Marinette lead.

Menominee was able to move the ball once again but a holding call thwarted the drive and the Maroons were forced to punt.

Marinette was flagged (18 penalties were called in the game) for a chop block on the return and was forced to start from their own 10.

Vanidestine got 11 yards on first down, but three runs after that the Marines were punting.

Tanner Maccoux got pressure on Marinette’s Heath Rowe (who took a bit too long to get the kick off) on the punt and blocked it. The ball traveled just 10 yards on the block and Menominee had tremendous field position at the Marinette 35.

Conery picked up 10 yards on a tailback draw on the drive’s second play, and he gained just about nine yards on 3rd-and-9 to set up a 4th-and-1 from the Marine 15.

Uecke easily got the first as he gained seven yards and Marinette gave him half the distance to the goal on a personal foul call.

Conery scored three plays later from two yards out, his third score of the game.

Marinette sophomore Scott Eldredge picked off the conversion pass and Menominee held a 19-14 lead with 5:21 to play in the half.

All three of the game’s turnovers occurred over the next 3:29, and Menominee ran the clock out holding onto their lead.

Marinette fired just one pass on their 13-play scoring march to open the second half, and it didn’t come until a 3rd-and-7 from the Menominee 17.

It was a steady dose of running from the powerful young backfield, with a little Murphy sprinkled in.

Keller started the drive with runs of nine, three and three, before Murphy got four and Vanidestine got the first down on a three-yard run.

Keller’s 16-yard burst moved the Marines to the Menominee 35, before Vanidestine got eight yards and was barely tripped up by Conery, saving a score.

Keller got two yards on the next play before Murphy executed a quarterback sneak for five yards and a first down.

Keller was stuffed to gains of one and two before Murphy found Oman over the middle for a 15-yard gain.

Vanidestine scored from the two on the next play.

On the conversion, Marinette again tried to find Oman in the corner but Miller was in better position to bat the ball away.

Menominee took over with 6:21 to play in the quarter and burned 6:11 of it on their drive.

Conery got five on first down and Uecke got three the next play, but a questionable five-yard facemask penalty gave Menominee a first down.

Conery picked up another 20 yards on the next two plays, before Uecke got another first down with an eight-yard run.

Conery for four, Marinette gave them five by jumping on a hard count, and Uecke got five more the next play.

Mike Johnston saddled Conery for a two-yard loss on first down and Austin Belongia tripped him up for a four-yard loss on the next play, setting up a 3rd-and-16, but another offsides penalty and Conery’s nine-yard pass to Jacob Gerdt made it an attainable 4th-and-2.

Conery got five yards to easily pick up the first, and after two Uecke runs got nine yards, scored from three yards out.

He hooked up with Gerdt for the conversion pass to make it 27-20, and neither team scored from there.

Marinette’s next drive was quickly stalled. Mayhew got three yards, Jordan Miller deflected a pass near the line, and a fumbled snap netted a loss of three.

Menominee ate up over four minutes of clock and pinned the Marines deep, and despite an 18-yard gain by Murphy, the drive went nowhere.

Menominee’s final drive ate up 4:07 of the clock and the fatigued Marinette defense couldn’t get off the field.

“They had more people going both ways than we have,” Hofer recalled. “That might have helped us somewhat.”

Hanner doesn’t know if fatigue was the reason, but his defense’s inability to get off the field really hurt them late.

“We can’t stop a lot of people with our defensive line,” admitted Hanner. “They have a nice ball club, but we just can’t slow anybody down. It’s not a lack of effort. Any time you play freshmen or sophomores, you’re gonna have issues. (But) they are some of the better football players we have. We’re not very deep with depth or experience.”

It wasn’t the aerial attack much were expecting, but more of a smashmouth run attack for both teams.

“You had to have your chin straps strapped,” Hofer opined.

“A couple of times, I didn’t think somebody was gonna get up,” Hanner added.

Neither team was sharp in terms of discipline as both teams were flagged nine times for a total of 139 yards.

“The flag was really flying Saturday and both teams suffered from it,” Hofer recollected. “We always had to make more than ten yards.”

Marinette shored up their secondary but just didn’t have an answer for Conery and Uecke (22 carries for 99 yards).

“Our secondary did a pretty good job,” noted Hanner. “They tried to roll out the quarterback a few times and he either threw the ball away or ran for it.”

But with the success of the running game, Hanner said the Maroons “didn’t have to think twice about passing.”

Keller was very impressive in just his second game back from a lengthy absence due to mononucleosis.

“He’s still out of shape,” Hanner admitted. “Can you imagine him if he’s in shape and he’s been around for a while this season? You can see how we missed him.”

The now 0-8 Marines weren’t supposed to have much of a chance against a young but talented Maroon team that qualified for yet another playoff berth with Saturday’s win.

“They came out and played some inspired football,” Hanner said. “Even just watching last year’s game film helped their confidence. They left everything they had on the field.”

“It went about as we anticipated,” Hofer said of the battle the Marines gave his Menominee squad. “We felt it was going to be an extremely tough game because they had nothing to lose.”

The win makes Menominee 6-2 with a game to play, and it guarantees them a spot in Michigan’s playoffs that are set to begin next week.

“That was big,” Hofer admitted. “We aren’t going into the last game wondering if we are going to make the playoffs. That’s very important for the Maroons.”

Menominee plays down state at Kingsley Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m., and a win may get them a home playoff game.

“If we win this week I think we have a good opportunity to have a home game,” Hofer insighted. “It’s gonna be one of those situations. Who ends up with the most bonus points.”

It is back to the drawing board for Hanner and the youthful Marines, who will look to salvage their season by getting a victory over an up and down Hortonville (2-5) team at home Thursday night.

“They’ve had their ups and downs this year,” Hanner said of the Polar Bears, who use a rare zone-blocking scheme along the offensive line that isn’t seen much at the high school level. “So maybe we get some confidence (from Saturday’s game) and hopefully play a step higher.”

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A View from the Other Side: A Miami writer's look at the Dolphins

06:51 AM CDT on Friday, October 23, 2009
Bradley Handwerger / Sports Writer

When New Orleans travels to Miami on Sunday, you’ve likely read as much about the Saints as you possibly can.

But what do you know about the Dolphins?

That’s where A View From the Other Side comes in. Every Friday during the Saints' season, will ask five questions to at least one beat writer covering the Saints’ opponent that week.

Today we welcome David J. Neal of the Miami Herald. Neal covered the Dolphins daily as a summer 1989 Miami Herald intern, usually managed to avoid covering them after becoming a Herald staff writer in the fall of 1989 and returned to covering them daily in 2004. You can check out his work at the Miami Herald.

WWL-TV: The Dolphins started out 0-3, but have won the past two games. What has changed and allowed Miami to turn things around?

David J. Neal: They played a Buffalo team with a banged up defense and an injured quarterback (a healthy Trent Edwards). That was like slapping around Ironside. Against the Jets, they ran the ball successfully, slowing the Jets pass rush and allowing Chad Henne the time to play flawlessly. Defensively, they still allow too many big plays.

WWL-TV: Chad Henne didn’t start the season as the No. 1 quarterback, but has come off the bench to give the team a lift. What has he done well the past three games that have given Miami life on offense?

DJN: He's got a bigger arm than Chad Pennington, so the ball gets there quicker on the short and medium routes and gets there, period, on the long routes. Twice this year, it looked like Pennington overthrew speedster Ted Ginn Jr. when Ginn actually misjudged Pennington's ability to get the ball there and shifted into top gear too late.

Anyway, what's helped Henne most of all is the success of the running game. It takes so much pressure off of him and sets up the passing game so well. Also, he hasn't made mistakes. After four years as a starting quarterback at Michigan, he's used to being Mr. Man in the huddle as well as big games in front of big crowds.

WWL-TV: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about the Wildcat. Why does it work for Miami in the long run while it’s not all that successful for other teams in the NFL that try to use it?

DJN: Defenses have to respect both Ronnie Brown going between the tackles or to the left and Ricky Williams sweeping in the direction of his motion as well as a reverse as a standard play. There's often a moment of defensive hesitation -- Brown and Williams are two high quality ball carriers -- while the offensive linemen are getting into their blocks.

The way the Dolphins run the Wildcat pretty much answers how the single wing would do in today's NFL. As former Dolphins coach and single wing tailback Don Shula said Tuesday, the Wildcat is just the single wing.

WWL-TV: Miami’s pass defense is ranked No. 18 in the league. New Orleans’ Drew Brees, meanwhile, is being mentioned as an MVP candidate. What must happen in the Dolphins’ secondary for Miami to be successful against the pass on Sunday?

DJN: Cornerback Vontae Davis, the Dolphins most physical corner, has to beat the Marques out of Colston off the line when he's covering him and 6-foot-3 Sean Smith needs to be draped over Colston when he's covering him. What must happen in the rest of the secondary against everyone else? A prayer circle asking for a serious pass rush or for Brees to suddenly come down with a bad case of JaMarcus Russell.

WWL-TV: How healthy is Miami coming off the bye week and will the Dolphins be getting anyone back that could be a game-changer?

DJN: Outside linebacker Matt Roth, a starter on the strong side last year, practiced with the team for the first time since minicamp, but don't expect him to be ready for Sunday. Even after returning from missing a game with a hamstring injury, outside linebacker Joey Porter felt hampered against the Jets. Porter wouldn't say (Wednesday) that he was 100 percent, but did say he felt better than he did in the Jets win or the Week 3 San Diego loss, when he played only a few plays (one of which was a fumble-causing sack).

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