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Football 2012: Ellis again going with the spread

Published on -8/30/2012, 10:52 AM

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ELLIS -- At the end of last season, Ellis head coach Butch Hayes had the utmost confidence in his Railroader spread offense. The Railers, long an I-formation team that relied on the run, switched to the spread early last season after some injuries and collected great results. In the last eight games, the Railers exceeded 200 yards rushing and/or passing in each game. Ellis finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak and then lost to Johnson-Stanton County, 35-34, in the Class 2-1A postseason on a last-second score.

"At the end of the year, I had as much confidence as I have ever had in an offense just knowing that we could call a play and that we were going to get yards," Hayes said.

If Ellis had beaten Stanton County, it would been the only first-round playoff game, regardless of classification, where an unranked team beat a ranked team. The Railers finished the season with 340.7 offensive yards per game and 26.1 points per contest, a number that could have been bigger if Ellis didn't commit 26 turnovers.

It marked the program's best total offense in Hayes' five years. Ellis is 37-18 under Hayes and has reached the postseason nine straight times with six straight district titles. This fall, the Railers look to continue those streaks again behind the spread. Hayes and veteran assistants Troy Dale and Craig Amrein have gathered information throughout the offseason from other coaches, clinics and Internet clips.

"The kids like it, we like it as coaches and I think that will be a good offense for us," Hayes said.

Quarterback Riley Hunsicker graduated after he led the area in total offense (1,855 passing yards, 1,056 rushing yards) and earned HDN Super 11 honors. End Jared Herl picked up Shrine Bowl honors and led the team in multiple defensive statistics. Wideout Austin Lopez was a first-team all-MCL selection.

But virtually everyone else returns, including three all-league players: junior lineman Nick Gehring, a second team all-MCL selection on both sides of the ball. Senior linebacker Cadyn McCoy (86 stops) and senior defensive back Blake Hudson (60 tackles, team-high three interceptions) were also second team picks, while Hudson was an honorable mention selection as a wideout. He will take over as quarterback this fall.

"Quarterback, you definitely have a lot of weight on your shoulders, but it's fun to have the pressure to be able to make the plays," Hudson said.

Ellis is expected to improve on a defense that permitted 25.5 points per contest, easily the highest under Hayes.

"We have got everybody coming back, a lot of guys coming back," McCoy said. "We are just losing like Herl and Riley and Lopez, and we have got kids that are stepping up there. I think that we are going to be pretty good on defense. I think that is going to be one of our strong points."

The offensive line, very inexperienced last fall, brings back starters: Gehring, junior Skyler Tebo and senior Logan Fuchs.

"Get a little bit more confidence and more comfortable and that second year, it comes naturally to you," Gehring said.

Senior Gage Younger is back at running back, while seniors Cole Pfeifer, Jared Mick are among those at receiver in a spread attack that is capable of again putting up big numbers.

"We were never concerned with long yardage, because it's something with a spread offense that we could pick up quite a bit on 3rd-and-10 and in that type of offense, you could get 10 yards pretty quickly," Hayes said. "That's been one thing that has kind of pushed us towards that spread offense is just how easy it is to get that 10 after maybe a bad play."

"Where maybe where maybe in the past in the I formation, we lose a couple of yards, we are sitting 2nd-and-15, 3rd-and-15," he added. "It's a little bit harder for us to pick up that 15. Now, we can do it and the kids have a lot of confidence that we can."

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