Click the link below to see the Vicksburg Post Article
Published 9:37 am Wednesday, November 18, 2015
By Ernest Bowker
Tallulah Academy averaging a TD every five plays
In the waning moments of last week’s playoff game, Tallulah Academy senior Dakota Cone stood on the sideline taking practice punt snaps from teammate Carson McKinney.
It was an odd scene, and not just because the Trojans were up by 34 points at the time and putting a bow on their 11th victory in 12 games. It was odd because it’s a skill Cone and McKinney don’t use very much.
Thanks to Tallulah’s explosive offense, Cone has only punted seven times this season. The Trojans have reached the end zone 83 times, and are averaging a touchdown every five offensive snaps.
It’s a ridiculously fast pace that has powered them to their second consecutive MAIS eight-man championship game appearance. They’ll face Christian Collegiate Academy (12-0) Thursday at 10 a.m. at Millsaps College.
“I don’t think we’ve had one,” Tallulah coach Bo Barton laughed when asked what his team’s longest scoring drive was. “Maybe four or five plays? Anything longer than that is because of a penalty.”
Eight-man football, by its nature, usually features high-scoring games and lots of offense. The lack of players on a full-size field creates open spaces that can be exploited with speed and good execution.
Even with that in mind, the numbers Tallulah has put up this season are mind-blowing:
• The Trojans have had a total of 421 offensive snaps and scored 83 touchdowns, and average of one every five plays. In two playoff victories over Franklin Academy and Hebron Christian, they’ve averaged a touchdown every three plays.
• The Trojans have only faced third down 52 times. They’ve converted 27 of them, plus another nine times on fourth down, for a 69.2 percent success rate when their backs are to the wall.
• Tallulah is averaging 52.8 points and 468.3 yards per game, and 13.3 yards per play.
Cone said the Trojans’ success is a combination of scheme and speed. Cone, running back Ryan Hodge and quarterback Mason Todd — the three biggest playmakers — are all shifty runners in the open field. Offensive coordinator Justin Bigham has installed a no-huddle read-option offense that pushes the pace and takes advantage of their talents to make them seemingly unstoppable.
“With that no huddle offense, it feels like that,” Cone said. “We’re playing at a high pace, and it’s important to keep it rolling.”
Cone has 23 receptions for 683 yards and 13 touchdowns, but it’s really been the running of Hodge and Todd that’s powered the offensive machine. Hodge has rushed for 2,228 yards and 36 TDs, while Todd has 1,338 yards and 20 TDs. Both are averaging more than 14 yards per carry.
Hodge said he’s more of a speed back than a power back, but added that Todd has an edge in shiftiness.
“I’m shaky, but he’s shakier. I had to change my running style this year,” Hodge said.
Whatever tweaks Hodge has made, Barton approves.
“It’s definitely two different styles,” said Barton, who has coached in North Louisiana for more than 20 years. “Both of them could have played on any team I’ve ever coached. Both are good athletes, and more than that, good leaders.”
Although Hodge has 64 more carries than Todd this season, the workload has been split fairly evenly between them from week to week.
In last week’s semifinal win over Hebron Christian, Todd carried 10 times for 244 yards and four touchdowns and Hodge had 11 carries for 185 yards and three touchdowns.
Whoever winds up with more yards seems to boil down to who finds a seam and takes it to the end zone first.
“Coach Bigham does a good job making sure we get the right mismatches. We do a good job making sure our best is on their worst,” Barton said.
Christian Collegiate coach Joe Roberts, whose job it is to devise a scheme to stop the unstoppable force, agreed that that’s the real secret behind the Trojans’ success.
“They run that read-style offense. They have a good quarterback and running back that runs that system well. Then they have several receivers that make you cover them. You can’t just key in to stop the run. You’ve got to have cornerbacks that are able to play their man so your linebackers can make plays,” Roberts said.
Seven weeks ago, Roberts and his coaching staff found a way to slow down the Trojans — sort of. Christian Collegiate won 46-38 when the teams met in Gulfport on Sept. 25. It’s the only time this season Tallulah has scored less than 40 points.
CCA is averaging 44 points per game.
“In eight-man football it’s very tough to defend. You’ve got to be ready to also score some points,” he said. “Very rarely are you going to play a good offensive team and win 14-7.”
Tallulah Academy vs. Christian Collegiate
MAIS 8-man championship
Thursday, 10 a.m., at Millsaps