Homecoming, Rogers’ option offense presents challenging obstacle for Bulldogs

Photo: Richey Miller, clearchoicephoto.com

Some coaches avoid the subject, but Fayetteville High coach Daryl Patton has no problem talking about Homecoming with his Bulldogs. In fact, he’s mentioned it every day this week leading up to tonight’s 7:30 kickoff against the Rogers Mountaineers at Harmon Stadium.

“We talk about it because it’s important,” Patton said. “These are high school students. It’s on their minds, but as a football team the focus of Homecoming is the game. That’s what it is about. The court and the escorts and the parade and dance and other festivities, that’s all for the other students and the alumni and the parents. Our focus is getting ready to win the ballgame. That’s what makes a great Homecoming for everyone, winning the ballgame.”

Fayetteville (6-0, 3-0) vs. Rogers (4-2, 1-2)

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18
Location: Harmon Stadium, Fayetteville

As special as Homecoming is for the Fayetteville student body, it won’t be the most unique aspect of Friday night’s game. Shawn Flannigan’s Rogers squad will actually provide that quality. The Mounties (4-2, 1-2) eschew the Spread and I-formations and their various iterations ran by most state high school squads west of Little Rock. They also run the Triple Option out of the Flex-Bone formation.

“It’s not that we don’t see the offense very often,” Patton said. “We don’t see it at all, except when we play Rogers.”

The Triple Option takes advantage of undisciplined and aggressive play by allowing the quarterback to read first the defensive tackle and then the defensive end or outside linebacker. Depending on what the tackle and next the end does, the quarterback leaves the ball with the fullback, keeps it himself or pitches to a halfback.

Rogers also uses just the Midline Option, which is basically the fullback portion of the Triple Option to great effect. Six of the 7A/6A-West’s top 17 rushers are Mounties, led by Preston Young with 502 yards and 5 touchdowns on 73 carries and Brandon Workman with 489 yards and 9 touchdowns on 48 carries.

“We are going to have to be disciplined and play assignment football,” Patton said. “The biggest key for us is to win on first down. We need to keep them behind the chains so that we can get them off the field. If they win on first down with a 5 or 6-yard run, they can keep you behind the eight ball and roll right down the field. Coach Flannigan does a great job with the offense, and if you design your defense to stop the option one way, he comes back with something else. You have to adjust because, they are going to.”

Fayetteville did its best to simulate Rogers’ option attack in practice, but it’s difficult to do.

“We can run the plays, but we’re not going to be able to do it with the fluidity that we’ll see on Friday night,” Patton said. “We can’t do it, neither can Bentonville, Southside or Har-Ber. Rogers runs it everyday, and they do it very well.

“If we can’t stop them, we have to force turnovers and get the ball back. Just keep plugging and play hard. Good things will happen.”

Though Fayetteville is undefeated the Bulldogs (6-0, 3-0) are not a dominating football team, but they are a play-making squad that always seems to find an answer when needed most.

“We teach the kids that we’re going to have adversity, but when bad things happen, we want to stay even keeled,” Patton said. “We can overcome a bad play as long as we don’t let it beat us on the next two or three plays. Forget that bad play and move on and win the next one.

“Look, we aren’t into chasing some point spread or even trying to win by 13 for seeding in the playoffs. We want to be good enough to win by 1 point. We want to play our tails off, win each play or as many as we can for 60 minutes. If we win enough of them, we’ll win the game. That’s our goal.”