FREDERICKTOWN — Together, they rolled up nearly 120 points last Friday.
The offensive units of the Fredericktown Freddies (4-0, 1-0 Mid-Buckeye Conference) and the Utica Redskins (2-2, 1-0 MBC) steamrolled their opponents with well-balanced, multi-pronged offensive attacks that generated a bonanza of points.
The Freddies have done it all year, ringing up 208 points on the scoreboard in their first four games. Sixty-four of those points came against visiting Northridge last Friday.
“What is most important to us is balance,” said Fredericktown head coach Luke Beal. “We really try to emphasize balance in terms of run and pass, and also in trying to get the ball to a lot of different athletes. That’s one thing that, in the first four weeks of the season, we have been fortunate enough to do well.”
Utica, too, is looking for balance on the offensive side of the ball.
“We run a spread offense, but there are all kinds of spread offenses,” said Utica head coach Randy Felumlee. “We don’t want to be a one-dimensional spread offense. We want to be able to run and pass. Last year, we were a 50-50 team with the run and pass. I’d like to get closer than that. So far, we’ve been more pass than run.”
Everything came together for the Redskins last week after going 1-2 in nonleague play the first three weeks of the season. They scored against East Knox almost every time they got possession, including a 73-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jason Hoar the first time the Redskins touched the ball.
“That was kind of a misdirection play,” said Felumlee. “Jason got into open field, he made a couple of nice moves and made some kids miss. Once he gets behind you, there aren’t too many kids that are going to catch him. That, obviously, energized our team. The momentum was really on our side of the field for the entire half.”
The Freddies have been able to exploit other teams’ weaknesses, slipping easily from a passing to a running offense and back.
“We just try to take what the other team gives us,” said Beal. ”With our style of offense, if you become one dimensional, that’s a problem. Even though we are throwing the ball quite a bit, I consider us a ball control offense, and we like to run the ball quite a bit. We are just trying to move the chains.”
The emergence of quarterback Thomas Hinkle has been key to the Freddies’ success this year.
“Last year was Thomas’ first year as a starter,” said Beal. “I think that he has grown a lot over the last year. He worked very hard in the off season, so his strength and speed have increased quite a bit. He provides great leadership for us. Right now, he is doing a great job of getting the ball to people who are open. He’s been very consistent and, obviously, he’s been a really big key for us.
“We’re really fortunate this year,” he continued. “We have a lot of people who catch the ball, and they’re athletic and they can make things happen. Tyler [Hathaway] has had a number of big plays and key catches. It’s nice to have a number of options; if a team decides that theyare going to focus on [the run], we know we have other people that we can get the ball to.
“Our guys up front have done a great job protecting the passer,” said Beal. “Those guys have really worked hard. There have been times where Thomas has had a lot of time to throw. Anytime you are doing well offensively, you have to give the guys in the trenches credit. Austin Hoeflich at fullback has done a great job at blocking and pass protection. The nice thing about the way our offense plays is that it is really a team effort, and all of our guys are really unselfish.”
“We like to be able to pass the ball when you think it’s a running down,” said Felumlee. “We also like to run when you think it’s a passing down. Having a quarterback like Jason Hoar, you can always run it, no matter what play is called. That gives you an extra bit of luxury that most teams don’t have. “I’d like to be able to run the ball when we can and I’d like to pass when we want to. We still have to get better at the blocking phase of the offense.”
Multiple leaders have stepped up on the offensive units of both teams. For the Freddies, Tony Lybarger and C.J. Ruhl have been a deadly 1-2 punch on the ground.
“Tony just keeps making big plays when you get the ball in his hands,” said Beal. “He and C.J. both. They’re very explosive. They’ve got great hands. They’re both very dependable. If you need a play, and you can find a way to get them the ball, good things are going to happen. If you are in a pressure situation and you need a big play, those are guys you can go to.”
“We have big-name players like Jason and Scott Cline,” said Felumlee. “Also, our running backs did a better job of running the ball. We rushed for over 300 yards and Jason rushed for over 100, but other guys did well, too.
“We ran the ball more successfully against East Knox than we had all year,” said Felumlee. “We kind of went into the game with that intention. The running game was there and we had good execution.”
Turnovers are key.
“That was a big problem, with three to four turnovers in our first three [games],” said Felumlee. “We executed pretty well ([last Friday] and didn’t turn the ball over.
“Our defense got three turnovers,” said Felumlee. “When you don’t turn it over and the other team does, you get more possessions and more opportunities to score. That was particularly true in the first half, where we had six possessions and scored five times.”
“We really emphasize that we don’t want to get into scoring contests with the other team,” said Beal. ”You win your really tough games with defense, and that’s what we want to keep coming at them with — good, fundamental defense. We have done a good job early in the season of not giving up points early.”