Indian River Head Football Coach Jim Bunting is adding a little spice to this year’s offense and will break out of their traditional run, run, run ground game — a little bit.
The Indians graduated 1,000-yard star running back Therman Hagans and will look to replace him with a conglomerate of rushers this season, as well as increase the role of quarterback.
Bunting has a few complementary rushers vying for Hagans vacant spot and this season may be a running back-by-committee system. Seniors Matt Williamson and Danny Veith look to share running back duties with each responsible for a certain task.
“Danny has great speed and will run our quick pitches and outside running game while Matt will primarily run it in-between the tackles even though he has the speed to get to the outside,” said Bunting.
In addition to their duo of tailbacks, Bunting will employ a trio of capable fullbacks to clear running lanes for Williamson and Veith. Scott Bollinger, Josh Guy and Perry Townsend will all rotate in at fullback to evenly distribute the punishment.
“In the Power I (formation), fullbacks take the brunt of the punishment, so by rotating them it will keep them fresh and make our running game that much more effective,” said Bunting.
The Indians entire receiving corps returns, giving the starting quarterback a plethora of offensive options. Standing at 6’3” and weighing in at 220 pounds, senior Tyler Hastings will ensure quarterback Eric Givans has a large target as Hastings replaces (or attempts to replace) D.J. Singleterry at tight end this season.
“Tyler’s a big target that has great hands,” said Bunting.
Bunting anticipates a big season in the passing game from senior returning slot end Josh Dean and others could emerge as well.
First year football player, senior Andy Bokinsky has played well at the wide receiver position and could see considerable time this season provided he stays healthy. Bunting also expects Williamson’s role in the passing game to expand as well.
“Matt catches as well as anyone one the team when we split him out at the flanker position,” said Bunting.
Last year, Givans threw a few passes a game if he was lucky but this year he must be prepared to take a bigger role.
“When you lose a great back like Therman [Hagans] you have to adjust, and that’s not to take anything away from our running backs, but this was something that we began to groom in December,” said Bunting. “Eric’s been working hard to prepare, and this year we’ll have more four man routes instead of three — we’re going to put the ball up in the air.”
In addition to the Indians revamped passing game, Buntings Power I offense will stay relatively the same, with the offense running a few plays out of multiple formations. Repetition has created a sense of familiarity in the offense, and that may be a key point for the Indians as they start their season.
“The kid’s haven’t forgotten how to do certain things in this offense from last year, so that makes it a lot easier,” said Bunting. “They are ahead of where they were last year.”
An offense is usually the hardest thing to master because it relies on execution, but the defense can simply read and react to get off the ground running.
Bunting has only to replace safety Josh Long and inside linebacker Singleterry, and while its tough finding productive leaders like those guys, Bunting has full confidence that someone will step up.
“It happens every year,” said Bunting of losing leaders like Singleterry, “We lost Frank Shockley the year before, and it was D.J. and those guys in the same situation. This year we have 18 seniors and a bunch of juniors — someone always steps up. All of this is going to evolve.”
Bunting said that his linebackers received a lot of quality playing time last year and were able to make plays due to the fact that most teams ran away from Singleterry at the end of the season.
“We have eight linebackers and there is very little that separates them at this point,” said Bunting. “They could all start.”
With that said, Bunting ensured his team would stay well-rested because they would platoon as much as possible.
“Platooning will help the team because the players will be fresh,” said Bunting. “Unselfish attitudes will lead to good things.”
With very little changing on the defensive side of the ball, there will be some changes to this year’s schedule. Indian River will avoid the independent Catholic school circuit this year in favor of trying to earn points for the postseason. The Indians will square off with Cape Henlopen and then travel to regional powerhouse Stephen Decatur for their second game.
Bunting noted that even if they don’t win those games, they will still earn points towards the playoffs instead of trying to win out like last year.
“We played better last year because we started out against good competition, but we didn’t accumulate any points towards the playoffs,” said Bunting. “This year, even if we lose to Stephen Decatur — we’ll gain some points because they will make it to the playoffs.”
Personnel, schemes and schedules have all changed for the better, but so has his team’s attitude.
“There is no complaining or finger pointing like in the past (three to four years ago),” said Bunting. “Now if a team scores, our team goes right back to business.”