As the saying goes, offense wins games and defense wins championships. In the Midlands this season, many teams have the offense part covered.
Thirteen area running backs have surpassed the 1,000-yard mark, six quarterbacks are approaching 2,000 passing yards and at least five area teams average around 400 yards per game.
Lexington coach Josh Stepp said credit for his team’s big production — 394 yards per game — belongs in large part to Ted Bailey, Austin Leaphart, Anthony Taddeo, Wyatt Kiesler and William Ronan — the Wildcats’ offensive line.
“The biggest reason why we’re successful is because of those guys up front,” Stepp said. “It all starts there. Whether we’re rushing or receiving, what we’re able to do is because of them. When they play well, we are able to be very productive.”
Never miss a local story.
Pelion also has a strong front, but coach Ben Freeman said the increased offensive output is a matter of strategy, as well.
His Panthers have used a ball-control offense that gets its steam from quarterback Zach Hawkins and leading rusher Ervin Green. But Freeman notes many top performing teams have gone to the spread.
“That makes it hard for defenses to cover it,” said Freeman, whose Panthers have been on both ends of a huge offensive performance. “That’s what teams are doing more and more is making you cover the whole field.”
A key feature of the area’s most productive squads is offensive balance.
With talented skill players in the backfield and lining up wide, teams such as Dutch Fork and Lexington have been able to punish opposing defenses, racking up four or more touchdowns per game.
“We want to keep defenses off balance, and the biggest way we do that is to be very balanced,” Stepp said. He said the success of Wildcats running game — led by Garvin Jackson’s 1,083 yards — allows more freedom for quarterback Will Hunter and the Wildcats’ receiving corps.
At Dutch Fork, the Silver Foxes have had a high-octane offense for several years, and this year is no exception.
The Silver Foxes average nearly 480 yards per game, with quarterback Derek Olenchuk passing for an average of 253 yards per game. Running back Matt Colburn leads a rushing attack that also produces more than 200 yards per game.
“It’s kind of a no-win situation for the defense. You pick your poison. The really good offenses are going to hurt you either way,” Freeman said.
“There’re a lot of good coaches in the area and in the state that are going to be able to take advantage of that,” he said.
So while it is a big year for offenses, the productive upswing is accompanied by a tough year for defenses.
It has been a particularly rough season for the Ridge View defense, which lost several all-star performers from its defensive line and secondary after the 2012 season.
The Blazers, a squad that last year collected more sacks and interceptions than any other Midlands team, this year has struggled to hold off offenses.
With the postseason a week away, some teams are putting it all together. Fairfield Central’s offense puts up 386 yards per game and averages 42 points, while its defense allows 9.7 points.
For squads like the Griffins, the future looks bright.