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Triple option leads Edison back to state playoffs

By JIMMY WATKINS • Updated Nov 7, 2019 at 5:21 PM

MILAN — When the Edison football team snaps the ball, defenses don’t guess run or pass. They guess which runner.

That’s because while many coaches coach five-receiver, shotgun-heavy “spread” offenses, Edison coach Jim Hall employs a triple-option attack, which often involves more running backs than receivers.

Hall knows he’s in the minority running an old-school, run-dominant offense. Despite appearances, though, the Chargers veteran coach says his offense accomplishes the same goal as coaches who run spread systems.

“We’re trying to spread the field also, but we do it a little differently,” Hall said. “We’re trying to find running lanes and get as many different guys involved (as possible).”

The Chargers moved up from No. 12 to the fifth seed in Division IV Region 14, and will play at No. 4 Shelby (7-3) at 7 p.m. Saturday at W.W. Skiles Field in a first-round game.

If Hall does line up someone at wide receiver, that player is just as likely to motion into the backfield as run a route. In total, the Chargers have thrown just 64 passes this season, or about six per game.

That hasn't stopped Edison from excelling on the ground, however. For the season, six Chargers have carried the ball at least 36 times, and all of them average 4.5 yards or more per carry. As a team, the Chargers average better than 300 rushing yards per game, by far the best mark in the SBC Bay Division.

In last Friday’s 41-20 win over Huron — which Edison had to have to make the Division IV playoffs — the Chargers piled up 426 yards rushing. Brewer led the way with 159 yards and four touchdowns.

“They know we’re gonna run it,” said Jacob Brewer, Edison’s leading rusher. “You just approach it as, we’re gonna be more physical; we’re gonna drive you off the ball. We’re just gonna pound it down your throat and make you stop it. If you can’t stop it, then goodnight.”

Brewer, a 215-pound senior, said he first learned the triple option his freshman year of high school. It didn’t require much adjusting for Brewer. His job as a fullback remains to gash defenses up the middle.

His teammates, on the other hand, faced more of a learning curve.

Take sophomore quarterback Thomas Simon, for instance. In middle school, Simon said his read was simple: give or keep. In high school, Simon reads different parts of the defense and needs to decide whether to pitch the ball if he keeps it.

Simon said he’s improved at reading defenses at game speed, but he can still improve. As his young quarterback matures, Hall said he’ll empower Simon to change plays at the line of scrimmage.

In the meantime, Simon knows he can rely on Brewer, the Chargers’ only 1,000-yard rusher, if he gets confused on a read.

“If it’s a little cloudy or I don’t know what to do, I can just hand it off to Brew,” Simon said. “I know he’ll just get a solid three or four yards every play, so that helps.”

The offensive linemen described similar adjustments when learning Hall’s offense. In middle school, their only job was to block the man in front of them. As varsity players, they’re forced to think harder.

In some cases, Hall’s scheme calls for linemen to intentionally leave defenders unblocked so Simon can read their movements clearly. It also calls for more “pulling” action, where linemen run across the formation to act as lead blockers for the ball carrier.

“There is a lot of schemes involved in it,” Hall said. “They have to know who not to block and then how we account for the rest of the guys.”

Senior Jaden Timbs said the Chargers linemen lift weights unconventionally to account for their unique roles. Whereas most offensive lines measure their progress by the weight on the bar, the Chargers focus on rep counts and rep speed.

As a result, they’re fast and unrelenting where many linemen are plump and plodding. They need to sustain drives that don’t often move more than four or five yards per play.

“We’re OK with taking those steps to wear a team down, to get those 3-4 yards every play.” Timbs said. “To eventually get however long a drive we need as long as it ends in six points.”

That’s the design of Hall’s offense: drain the clock, limit the opponent’s possessions and wear down its defense. And while the option doesn’t produce many flashy, game-breaking plays, Hall’s players buy in. They can feel their opponents’ dragging toward the end of games.

“Toward the fourth quarter, if we play our brand of football most teams don’t want it,” senior lineman Tim Straka said. “No team likes to be hit in the mouth every single play. Nobody likes that, and that’s what our offense is. We’re coming off every single play with the main purpose of we’re gonna punch you in the mouth, and we’re gonna score.”

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