Posted: 3:16 am Saturday, December 11th, 2010
By Jeff Greer
It was as thorough as it was unexpected, at least from my perspective. Jacksonville-Trinity Christian’s 27-10 thrashing on American Heritage admittedly caught me off guard. My colleague Matt Porter and I predicted a close game and an American Heritage win.
What we got was a dominant, not-as-close-as-the-score-says Trinity Christian 27-10 victory.
So, how did the Conquerors do it? Why don’t I give you, well, five thoughts on that? And I promise I won’t make any jokes about conquering or anything like that.
(Note: I’m horrible at keeping I-won’t-make-bad-jokes promises.)
1. Neutralizing American Heritage’s confusion-based defense. American Heritage coach Doug Socha mixed in all kinds of defensive fronts. Some had just one down lineman, some had two and, albeit rarely, some had three. The idea is to have an active set of linebackers moving around, creating confusion for the defense-reading quarterback. The New England Patriots occasionally use their own 1-5-5 package, with one down lineman and two outside ‘backers standing upright on the ends.
On any given down, American Heritage had a gang of linebackers and safeties just off the ends. The Stallions rarely provided safety help over the top. Why? Uh, Trinity Christian threw the ball … once … on a trick play. So, everyone was in the box.
But Trinity didn’t have to throw at all. American Heritage never got regular penetration off the Trinity Christian edges. The gaps weren’t filled and blocks weren’t shed. The Stallions made enough of a push to get three consecutive stops spanning the second and third quarters, but the push didn’t last.
Instead, it was Trinity that made the adjustments to the brief period of offensive sluggishness, creating new crevices in the American Heritage defense. And to their credit, the Conquerors used their own bit of formation trickery to keep the Stallions guessing. During its opening drive, a 10-play, 56-yard drive that yielded seven points, Trinity ran at least three sets:
1. Shotgun, with two receivers left, one running back as a sidecar to the quarterback and two blocking tight ends.
2. QB under center, one back, one wide receiver, three tight ends
3. QB under center, one tailback, one fullback, three tight ends (with one TE in motion)
It confused me, and I wasn’t even playing. I’m sure execution had a lot to do with it, but those formations were hard to read. The stats aren’t, though: 52 carries, 322 yards, one state championship.
2. Andrew Buie really … buoyed … his team. Because Chevelle Buie isn’t playing for Cocoa in its Class 2A final against Glades Central tomorrow night, I had to get that horrible buoy joke in tonight instead. (And I totally just broke my no-corny-jokes promise.)
Andrew Buie did all kinds of damage. He had 242 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 7.8 yards a carry. He was tough to bring down, breaking tackles right and left, and his devastating cutback that led to a 54-yard touchdown run basically cooked the game in the third quarter.
Here’s Socha’s explanation:
“Defensively, it was just getting lined up to their formations. They’re a heck of a football team. I give them a lot of credit. We just didn’t make the plays we needed to at times …
At times, we didn’t tackle and that hasn’t been our defense this year. If he breaks one tackle, he has a chance to take it for a touchdown every time …
We mixed up some personnel groups based on what they were doing offensively with their tight ends and their wings and their personnel. We had a great game plan. Once we got adjusted, we did have some stops. But at times, we couldn’t get off the field or he broke some tackles. Sometimes we had him at the first point of attack and we just didn’t make the play.”
3. The painful injury to Nestor Lantigua. American Heritage came into the game with four guys who had 700 or more rushing yards. But it took some time for anyone to get into a groove against Trinity Christian. The guy who made the most impact was Lantigua, a super-quick senior who took nine carries for 87 yards in the first half.
But then Lantigua injured his groin and missed the second half. In his place, sophomore Greg Bryant conjured up some magic, running for 36 yards and a touchdown on eight carries in the third quarter. Yet that was it for the offense. After that, the drive chart sagged:
2. Turnover on downs
4. Prized possessions. There were 17 total possessions in the game, nine for Trinity Christian, eight for American Heritage. You want to see how they handled those possessions?
Trinity Christian: 9 possessions, 4 touchdowns, 3 punts, 2 ends of halves
American Heritage: 8 possessions, 3 punts, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 1 turnover on downs
And there’s your ball game. The point is, possessions were at a premium in this one. Time of possession wasn’t that big of a difference — Trinity had it for about four more minutes — but the Conquerors’ scoring rate necessitated much more offensive production from the Stallions. It’s that simple.
5. Field position. Yawn, right? But honestly, if you asked me, “Hey Jeff, what conversation have you had the most with coaches this year?” The answer would be: special teams and field position.
I’m so serious.
Having a kicker who can boom touchbacks (in Florida, if the kick goes into the end zone, it’s an automatic touchback) is a colossal advantage. Just ask Boca, West Boca or Dwyer, schools that possess Division I-level kickers. Trinity Christian kicker Banner Clark booted three touchbacks. As a result, American Heritage’s average starting spot was its own 22.
Trinity’s was its own 32, and 10 yards is a huge difference in a game with precious few possessions. The Conquerors made theirs count, and that’s why they left Orlando as state champs.
Back at it tomorrow. This doesn’t count as a thought. This is just me telling you that I’ll be at Glades Central-Cocoa tomorrow for the Class 2A final. Kickoff is at 7. You can check out the broadcast schedule here. You can follow my in-game updates and news on Twitter. And of course, you can log onto PBGametime.com before the game for pre-game chatter, during the game for news and notes and after the game for it all. See you all tomorrow.