Thomas, Patriots look for wins with new offense

Published 10:01 pm Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A decade ago Wayne Grant won a state title with a team that did not have a true running back. Fast forward to present day, and Grant finds himself in almost the exact same situation.

The Pike County Football team that Grant coached to the football Promised Land, did possess a game changer at quarterback, as does his current Pike Liberal Arts team.

Chris Nickson wowed the crowd and opposing teams with athleticism and speed, en route the Alabama Mr. Football award his senior season. Pike Liberal quarterback Russ Thomas, while not being quite the athlete that Nickson was, is being thrust in to the same role.

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“When Chris played for me, we didn’t have a true tailback,” said Grant. “If we would have had one, he would’ve been it. When Taytom went down, Russ became our key person on offense, and we had to change things up a little bit.”

The Pike Liberal Patriots were forced to swap offenses earlier in the season. Starting running back Taytom Barnes was declared done for the season after a bought with severe dehydration earlier in the season.

Grant had to abandon his tried and true I-formation, and is now utilizing a spread formation that gives Thomas options.

“We found out last week that we don’t need to pass from the pocket,” said Grant. “When we roll the pocket out it gives him a run/pass option. If he sees nothing but green grass in front of him, we want him to run.”

Grant and staff are confident in Thomas’ abilities in the passing game, but the Patriots are not expected to put the ball in the air that often.

“We are a little slow in getting open at the receiver postion,” said Grant. “We are going to throw it some, but there is no sense in trying to make something work if you aren’t good at it.”

The new offense saw the transition of Tyler Rotton back to the offensive line. Rotton played in the trenches last season, before moving to fullback in 2012.

Grant said that the change in offensive game plan did away with the need of a fullback, and praised Rotton’s willingness to swap positions.

“I just want to praise Tyler for stepping back up on the line,” said Grant. “It is something he knows, and something he is very good at.”

Grant said the goal for the rest of the season is to continue to improve every week and carry momentum in the 2013 spirng camp.

Pike Liberal hosts Ft. Dale on Friday at Dewight Ward Field at Delaney Kervin Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.