Rangers come to town with option attack for home opener

by: JOHN BREWINGTON - Senior singleback Carson Davison (1) runs the ball during the face off with Roosevelt. Davison scored the second touchdown for the Indians, who beat up on Roosevelt 41-8.This week’s opponent won’t be quite as flashy. They won’t be wearing brand new Nike uniforms, and their starting lineup won’t be littered with college recruits. Make no mistake, though, this is no time for the Indians to let up. Estacada is in town, a team that took Scappoose to the wire last season on the road. Though the challenge is likely to be much less than the match up with Roosevelt, the difficulty now is to keep up the same intensity.

Estacada (0-1) is fresh off a loss to Taft High School at home, falling in the first game under new head coach Andy Mott. The Rangers led 16-6 going into the fourth quarter, but allowed a pair of touchdowns by the Tigers in the final period and fell 20-16. This is a stark contrast to Estacada’s start last season, when they went 5-2, including a close loss at home to Scappoose, before losing their final three games.

The Rangers’ kryptonite, along with a lack of depth, is their dreadful secondary. Estacada went to sleep on junior quarterback Peter Lahti, making his first start as a high school quarterback. Lahti completed an astounding 34 of 47 passes in the game, picking apart the Ranger defense for 314 yards passing.

That lack of depth becomes crippling against a team like Scappoose. Many of the Ranger players see time on both sides of the ball because of the size of the roster and the lack of talent, making the size and depth of the Indian’s roster much more potent. The ideas used against Roosevelt, to get to the edge and spread out the defense, are just as useful. This time around, it’s not to wear out the big players that clog up the middle, but to wear down the players who play on both offense and defense.

Those players include Estacada’s top two – senior running back Steven Weaver and junior quarterback Willie Blankenship. Weaver is especially dangerous. He does a little of everything for the Rangers. In addition to his duties as the number one option in the backfield, Weaver returns kickoffs and punts. He picked off a number of passes last season, as well as assuming the role of the team’s kicker. Weaver is also a monster on defense, leading the team in tackles.

Blankenship, at 6-2, 178 pounds, is one of the taller quarterbacks Scappoose will see. Not a runner like Roosevelt’s Kimane Domena, Blankenship and the Rangers will employ a run option attack based on the legs of Weaver.

The option puts pressure on a defense’s ability to disguise its intentions. A triple option run, the backbone of the option attack, forces the quarterback to read the defense in two key areas. Initially, the first option is usually to hand the ball off to the running back for a dive play. The quarterback has his eyes on the defensive end, watching to see if they will fill the hole the running back is aiming at. If the defensive end holds off, the running back attacks the line of scrimmage, hoping to make yardage between the tackles. If they move forward and pressure the handoff, the quarterback moves to the second option – a keeper, and usually a run to the edge. Once the quarterback moves on the second option, they watch the defensive backs to determine whether to use the third option, which is a pitch to the outside.

The main attack, though, is Weaver. He’ll line in the tailback position when Estacada sets up in the I formation – which is when two running backs line up behind the quarterback, who is under center. That first option will be for Weaver to run up the middle, or “downhill” as Scappoose head coach Sean McNabb put it.

“It’s a good test for us up front, because they do come at you,” said McNabb. “They run the ball pretty well, and to win games you’ve got to stop the run.”

What the Indians need to do

On defense, it’s all about patience. The front line has to make the important choice of which option to bite on, first and foremost. Because the handoff from the quarterback is so essential to the success of the option, disturbing that handoff could lead to potential turnovers or missed reads and lost yardage. However, attacking the running back too early will cause the quarterback to pull the ball out and attack the other side of the field. Patience and allowing the play to develop before jumping on it can be a big help to the Indians. With Weaver as the most likely first option on the dive, Scappoose will have to gage the threat of both a run by Blankenship as well as the pitch option man. Whichever is most dangerous will get pressured and force Estacada to rely on an option that won’t hurt Scappoose as badly.

Offensively, Scappoose is in good shape. They have already shown an ability to score a plethora of points on a talented defense, and quarterback Taylor Loss can pick apart a secondary and stretch the defense down the field. The Indians have tons of talent and an ability to hit the edge, and as time goes on their superior conditioning and greater numbers should deal a crippling blow.

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