The offense that Dutch Fork High School football coach Tom Knotts worries about the most is one people would think.
Wide-open, no-huddle passing attacks concern the veteran coach but none put the fear into him like the ground-control, Wing T offense. That’s the offense the Silver Foxes face Friday when they play T.L. Hanna for the Class 5A championship.
“Going back to the 1980s, the Wing T is the most feared offense that we play against,” Knotts said. Monday at the state championship I would play against spread teams, don’t want to play against Wing T teams. I always feared it and they (Hanna) do a great in executing it.”
The history of the Wing T offense goes back more than 60 years and the formation in which three running backs line up in a row about five yards behind the quarterback, forming the shape of a T. Knotts said Hanna’s version of the Wing T is more of a hybrid version of it.
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Knotts watched a few games of T.L. Hanna on film and their ability to execute the offense keeps teams off the field. He said Dorman had the ball for only five plays in the first quarter and it was more than 20 plays before Byrnes got the ball in the third-round game.
“We got to get them to second and third and long and get off the field quickly,” Dutch Fork defensive back Hugh Ryan said. “They do a great job running it, then they can lull you to sleep and throw it deep on you.”
T.L. Hanna wasn’t a Wing T team until Jeff Herron arrived from Grayson (Ga.) two years ago. Before his arrival, quarterback Alex Meredith threw for 5,400 yards in his first two seasons. During his past two years, the Army commit for just over 1,200. This year, he has attempted just 47 passes, completing 34 of them for 708 yards and 12 TDs.
“It was a big change for me. It wasn’t what I was used to and I had to become unselfish and put the team first. That is what matters,” Meredith said.
Herron said the unselfish nature of Meredith and other players on the team have made the change to the new offense go off without a hitch.
This year, Herron threw a little extra wrinkle in the mix by putting 283-pound five-star prospect Zacch Pickens in the backfield. The South Carolina commit leads the Yellow Jackets in rushing with 834 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has a pair of 100-yard games in the playoffs.
Knotts said he has never seen faced a back as big as Pickens and plans to put bigger players in the tackling drills this week to simulate trying to tackle a man with Pickens’ size.
Pickens might be the top ground gainer but T.L. Hanna rotates a variety of backs in the offense. Eleven different players have at least 10 carries or more and 27 different players have at least one carry this season.
“I feel like we have an advantage than other teams. Lot of teams across the state like to throw it a lot,” Meredith said. “They don’t see style offense like we have with the Wing T where we are going to run it down their throat the rest of the game. That is an advantage for us.”
State Championship Schedule
At Benedict College
Green Sea Floyds vs. Lamar, 5 p.m.
Abbeville vs. Barnwell, 8 p.m.
At Williams-Brice Stadium
Myrtle Beach vs. Greer, 1 p.m.
Dillon vs. Chester, 4 p.m.
Dutch Fork vs. TL Hanna, 7:30 p.m.
Friday’s games will be streamed on www.nfhsnetwork.com (subscription required).
The Class 3A, 4A and 5A games will be will be streamed on www.nfhsnetwork.com and carried locally on WACH Fox 57.2 (TWC 1250) and across the state on WCIV 36.1 (MyTV Charleston) in Charleston, Asheville/Greenville on WMYA MyTV 40 and in Florence/Myrtle Beach on WWMB CW21.