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Hometown Report: Prep football powers stick with offenses

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012 - 7:22 am | Page 2C

For years, the high school football craze in the Sacramento region was to unleash the wing-T.

Create confusion and chaos with deception and fake handoffs to keep defenders guessing, and then laugh it up en route to a record season.

In the 1980s, former Grant coach Bob Vukajlovich described defending Nevada Union's wing-T: "They run around like 11 mad dogs in a meat house – and we're supposed to find out who has the food."

Top-tier programs traditionally stick with their own gravy train to success.

Cordova led the country in victories during the 1970s running the wishbone. De La Salle of Concord hasn't lost to a Northern California foe since 1991, going 222-0-2 with the veer offense under coach Bob Ladouceur. Nevada Union still runs the wing-T for coach Dave Humphers, who has 191 career victories since 1991. Grant coach Mike Alberghini has used the pro set to run with power and speed. He has 222 victories since 1991.

Del Oro's Casey Taylor and Granite Bay's Ernie Cooper have combined to win seven Sac-Joaquin Section championships as coaches since 1999 with the Power I and the Fly Sweep, respectively. Pleasant Grove has quickly risen to power in recent years with throwback football – running. Elk Grove set national scoring marks in 1998 with the wing-T with Chris Nixon calling plays as the offensive coordinator. He's the Thundering Herd's head coach now, top-ranked this fall by The Bee.

"As long as I'm here, we'll run the wing-T because it's what we're all about," Nixon said.

Added Folsom co-coach Troy Taylor: "Coaches stick with what works for them, and they'll never change because it's who and what they are. It think it's great. That's what makes high school and college football so fun – everyone does something a little different – and that's what makes the NFL to me a little boring. It's all the same in the NFL."

Taylor was a quarterback pioneer in high school. In 1985, he led Cordova to a 14-0 record while becoming the first quarterback in section history to throw for 2,500 yards and run for 1,000 in one season. He still owns Cal passing records and had a brief NFL stint. But his prep numbers are modest by Folsom standards now.

Folsom continues to trot out trendsetters, the latest being Jake Browning, who led the Bulldogs to a 68-28 win over Woodcreek on Friday by throwing for 10 touchdowns and 689 yards.

Folsom swears by the spread, an offense that has become something of the national norm. With receivers and backs running routes, the idea is to get your best athletes in space and let them loose.

College coach Urban Meyer popularized this concept at Utah and Florida and now has introduced it at Ohio State. Taylor and Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson over the summer visited with Washington State coach Mike Leach to learn more tricks to the spread trade. Leach lit up opponents at Texas Tech with his pass-heavy attacks.

"You can always add things and improve," Taylor said.

Folsom proved the spread could work under any conditions with any quarterback. The Bulldogs stormed to the CIF State Division II championship in 2010 in ankle-deep mud in Carson, scoring six touchdowns against Serra of Gardena behind MaxPreps National Player of the Year Dano Graves, who accounted for a state-record 82 touchdowns. Last season, Tanner Trosin set state records for total offense with more than 6,000 yards for Folsom. Now check out the Browning kid. He's just a sophomore.

Taylor offers year-round tutorial services on the quarterback trade to area athletes, regardless of system or age. He has worked with Browning since the kid was in the fifth grade. But isn't that too young to groom a passer?

"I wouldn't recommend working with anyone that young, because you don't want this to become work – it should be fun," Taylor said. "But someone like Jake, he's unusual. He's pretty special. This offense really fits him."

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