Posted: 11:20 pm Wednesday, September 14th, 2011
By Jeff Greer
Thursday night’s showdown between two of the most athletic teams in the state, No. 1 Glades Central and No. 2 American Heritage, is going to be must-see football.
To give a better idea of what to expect, two unaffiliated defensive coaches who’ve played Central and/or Heritage gave us the breakdown of both teams.
Scouting Glades Central
The top-ranked Raiders (2-0) have won both of their games by making big, quick-strike plays and letting their defense and punishing running game control the tempo. It’s going to be a season-long process of getting new quarterback Tanner Redish assimilated to the offense, which means coach Roosevelt Blackmon has been and will be happy running the ball while occasionally taking shots down field.
This season Glades Central will regularly change its offensive looks between the I-formation and shotgun spread. Backup quarterback Greg Davis can be used as a fullback in the I, and the Raiders call isolation runs for Baker and Dominique Gibson frequently from that formation. Baker is more likely to punish defenders between the tackles, and while Gibson does his fair share of down-hill running, he can also get outside and make would-be tacklers miss.
In the spread, Central usually moves to a four-receiver set with Baker (or Gibson) in the shotgun sidecar. The running backs can both stay in and help with chip blocks and late pickups, but they’re also threats to bleed out into the flats as emergency options. The Raiders will take shots out of the four-wide set, and they’ll overload quadrants of the field to isolate a corner one-on-one with Likely or Wilson. On their two 45-yard passing plays against Dwyer, Likely simply outran his cover man and Davis overthrew the safety, who had to hold his position to keep an eye on the inside slot receiver on Likely’s side. That’s the advantage of being Glades Central.
American Heritage’s top focus on defense will be smashing the middle of Glades Central’s offensive line to limit Baker and Gibson’s production while doubling down on Likely and Wilson, who are explosively athletic and possess top-of-the-line route-running skills and football IQs. Expect the Stallions to blitz their talented linebackers Silmore Dallaway and Zach Slafsky — a lot — and offer tons of help on Likely and Wilson in the secondary, usually with extra safety help over the top.
Out of the spread, Central doesn’t slide its protections like most teams, which means their offensive line will primarily use zone or man-to-man blocking against Heritage’s talented line that has tough-guys-to-block Mike Wallace and Blake Davis on the ends. A perfectly timed and executed blitz can find the holes in that scheme and get into the backfield, which Dwyer did quite a bit in the opening week.
Side note: Look out for Wallace, who was in the backfield all game against Glades Central last year. He is an absolute menace off the edge, and he will get his tackles for loss and sacks on Thursday night. Like I said before, expect Central to line Baker and Gibson up on his side and have them chip-n-go or simply stay in as a safety-net protector for the quarterback.
But of course, if a team blitzes Glades Central, Likely and Wilson better be bottled up, because a quick pass out to them — or up-and-coming playmakers like Ronquavion Tarver — could yield the big play the Raiders were looking for.
Then there’s special teams, which American Heritage has spent much of the week working on. Central has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in its first two games — a 99-yard return by Likely and a 75-yard return by Wilson. Slowing them down (or simply getting touchbacks every time) is and has to be a primary focus.
Coach No. 1: “I thought their running game would be better. We went into the game to stop the run and try to contain the Likely kid and Wilson. It turned out that their running game was as good as I thought, but those two receivers were even better. They’re so dangerous every time they touch the ball.
“When they run the ball, the fullback is a big, strong kid. If you’re small inside, they can hurt you. We prepared for both Redish and Wilson. We felt like they would be switching both of them in and out. We’d put two defenders on Wilson and two defenders on Likely and make the other guys beat us one on one. I was more scared of Wilson going back at quarterback because he moves well with his feet. We had two whole different play sheets for Wilson and Redish. They’re two totally different quarterbacks.
“If Heritage doesn’t have great corners, it’s a huge risk to do what we did. We tried to send six guys.
To beat Glades, you have to have big inside guys to stop the run and great cover corners for Wilson and Likely, but they’re very hard to cover.
“By formation, when they’re in I, they were usually gonna run. On passing downs out of I, we felt pretty good. When they go to spread, they’re a little bit tougher as far as reads. We felt pretty good about stopping the run in the spread. I didn’t feel like they could drive the ball 80 yards on us, but I felt like on any play they could score. At any second they can smoke you.”
Coach No. 2: ”They have a bunch of studs on Glades Central. That doesn’t shock anybody from around here. Year in, year out, Glades Central will always have top-notch talent. They’ll spread Heritage out and make them cover those receivers and go down field.
“Heritage’s biggest thing is stopping Likely. It ain’t Jaime Wilson. It’s Likely. He’s dangerous. That kid is dangerous. Defense, offense, special teams. I said to our guys, ‘Please don’t kick the ball to that kid. Do not try him.’ He’s a stud. Glades Central will probably take advantage of the Heritage kids who play both ways. They’ll run them deep and try to tire those guys out. With the athletes Glades Central has, it’ll work. American Heritage is tough, they’ll be up for the challenge, but it’s gonna be tough for them.”
Scouting American Heritage
The Stallions have only played one game this season — a thrilling 33-28 win over a very good Atlantic team — because they had their Week 2 game canceled due to weather. But don’t expect Heritage to be sluggish because of it. This is one of the best conditioned, most prepared teams in the area. They’ll run multiple backs at defenses, and having dual-threat quarterback Marcus Davis makes defending them very difficult.
Heritage is pretty straightforward with what it does: A pistol spread, one-back formation that uses multiple receivers and mixes in one- and two-tight end looks. The Stallions will mix in Jeremy Gaskins as a changeup to Greg Bryant, but the junior Bryant is the offensive key for Heritage. He had 215 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Atlantic. He requires four quarters of defensive vigilance. He needs to be gang-tackled and sure-tackled by defenders and cannot be given any room to run. He’s a lightning-quick back.
The Stallions use their hulking tight ends — Tyler Provo and Blake Davis — primarily for blocking. They’ll run cutbacks and counters to flow the defense in one direction and isolate defenders one-on-one with Bryant on the backside. They’ll run the usual sweeps and off-tackle pushes, during which Bryant can use his speed and elusiveness to burst through holes and reach the second level.
But inside the tackles is where American Heritage can use all of its toys. Expect the usual straightforward dive and isolation runs up the gut, but Davis can use his speed and shimmy to run devastating QB traps, leads, draws and read options. Beyond that, they’ll move the tight ends back to H-back and run down-hill with a lead blocker out of the back field. From the obvious department: They’re good at what they do.
Just like Glades Central, Heritage is a very physical football team. Make no doubt about it: The Stallions are going to run, run and run it again. They move the ball in chunks, peppering in short swing passes and screens to keep defenses honest. Davis and backup QB Nick LaSala threw 17 times for 144 yards and a touchdown against Atlantic in Week 1 — that’s 8.5 yards per attempt — and many of those passes were catch-and-runs as opposed to drop-back-and-fires.The limited play of receiver Cameron Posey, the Stallions’ top pass catcher, will hurt them against Glades Central. The lanky Posey, who had offseason wrist surgery, will play but not as much as he would if he were fully healthy. As a result, Heritage will shade slightly more toward running the ball than they might in October and November. That’s not to say the Stallions won’t take shots down field — they will — but they’d rather beat teams by adjusting to the defense and using whatever cushion they get to move the chains with efficient runs and short, quick passes to their fast receivers Marcus Coby and Edwin Thomas.
On Thursday night, you’ll notice the hurry-up-and-look strategy. Heritage will come to the line quickly to see the defense, then pause for sideline audibles. That kind of strategy can be countered with moving secondaries and linebackers and disguising coverages and blitzes, but with the amount of talent and speed Heritage has, it almost doesn’t matter. Defenses have to finish plays all the way through.
Now, there might not be a better defense in the state than Glades Central’s. It’s up there. Let’s hear what Coach No. 2 had to say about the most anticipated matchup of the game: Glades Central’s vaunted D vs. Heritage’s loaded rushing-first offense:
Coach No. 2: “If you don’t wrap up or you miss tackles or you’re not driving your legs, Bryant gets loose. If you don’t tackle the guy, he’s gonna look that much better. Between their guards and their center (is where we felt Heritage was vulnerable), our interior guy just had the proper technique. They have a good line. We just figured that we could do what we had to do up front and cause some havoc. You just have to tackle at the end of the day.“For Glades Central, (linebackers) Gibson and Jatavis Brown, they’re studs. Once thing I know about Glades Central, they’re not big and they run a funny scheme. They put their biggest D-lineman in the middle with a one technique and a quicker guy in a 3-technique. Heritage really hasn’t changed their offense from last year when they played each other. If Heritage doesn’t block Gibson and Brown, it’s gonna be a long night. They’re not gonna throw on Glades Central’s secondary. They’ll try to pound the ball and take their shots when they can. Glades Central is a finesse line, a speed line that opens up holes for those linebackers to sprint through. If Heritage doesn’t block Brown and Gibson and Don’Kevious Johnson, they’ll be in the backfield all night.
“When you play a fast defense like those guys, either the D-linemen or linebackers will kill you. They can make a big play at any time. It could be that end, Cordero Phillips, or those linebackers. If Heritage doesn’t block those guys, it’s gonna be ugly. Them cats are coming. When they fill, they fill. They’re gonna thump you. They’re not grabbing no ankles. They bring the lumber, every time.
“But look: You can go over the techniques and all that but you never know with these kids and who shows up. It depends on the kids and who’ll be disciplined. When you put the kids on the field, it’s on.”