Spread gives rise to hybrid players

Published 7:35 pm Monday, September 6, 2021

The prevalence of the spread offense in area high schools has helped give rise to a new archtype of high school football star, the offensive weapon who can make plays in the open field and one-on-one situations, where they get the ball in the backfield or on the perimeter.

The distinction between running back and receiver has become less important as these offensive weapons become more popular and effective.

Coaches have gotten creative and are using players in a variety of ways in order to create mismatches and big plays. Iowa has taken receiver Curtis Deville and made him a part-time running back. DeQuincy moved top athlete Taije Ceasar to running back in its shift to the veer offense, but he is still heavily featured in the passing game. Sam Houston’s Dylan Abshire started at running back in 2019 but is lining up at receiver this year.

Barbe has the best of both worlds, with running back Tylan Ceasar and receiver Jamaal Levi able to line up and make plays all over the field. The duo combined for 194 rushing yards, 209 receiving yards and six total touchdowns in Barbe’s season-opening win over LaGrange last week. The duo continues a long line of versatile Bucs stars, including receivers Trey Quinn and Kevin Berard; running backs Kirkland Banks, Ernest Celestie and Courtney Galantine.

Among the most versatile of the new type of playmaker has been Sulphur’s Tag Stelly, who can run, throw and pass — and did all three in Sulphur’s opening week win over Pineville. Over the Tor’s past four games, Stelly — a one-time quarterback — has 48 carries and 13 receptions for 458 total yards and 5 touchdowns, with one incomplete pass attempt while lining up at running back, receiver and behind center.

In Iowa, the Yellow Jackets unleashed a pair of runner-receiver threats in last week’s win over Iota. Deville, a Purdue commitment, starred at receiver the previous two seasons, catching 42 passes for 955 yards and 12 touchdowns.  He also had games of 83 and 68 yards rushing last year while helping to fill in as an injury replacement at running back, had 143 yards on 7 carries last week, including a 65-yard touchdown run. McQuinton Montgomery also had a touchdown run, and the duo combined for all five Yellow Jacket receptions in a win over Iota.

The Leesville-Jennings game featured two of the top multi-threat players in the area in Caleb Gallashaw of the Wampus Cats and Trevor Etienne of the Bulldogs. Last year the duo combined for 44 touchdowns, with each scoring on rushing, receiving and kick  returns. Both can play defensive and Etienne has added punting duties this season. Friday, they combined for 216 rushing yards (with each going over 100), 10 receptions for 95 yards and three touchdowns, with each scoring on a run and Etienne adding a 90-yard kickoff return.

Kinder boasts several two-way threats led by Griffin Cooley and Landon Schmitz. Both start in the secondary but can also provide a boost in a variety of offensive roles. Last week, Cooley, also an outstanding kick returner, ran for 23 yards while Schmitz hauled in three passes for 107 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown to help the Jackets squeak by rival Welsh.

St. Louis has an emerging star in Marcus Duhon, who had a long touchdown reception in the jamboree and followed that up with a regular season debut in which he had two receptions and blocked two kicks in addition to leading the Saints secondary from his free safety slot.

Sherman Bellow of Elton has been impressive in leading the Indians return to the gridiron. In the opener against Vinton, the running back had 75 yards rushing and a touchdown in addition to a 75-yard kickoff return touchdown.

LaGrange has a pair of rushing/receiving threats in Kameron Darmond and Chris Dixon who can do damage lining up in the backfield or at receiver. Darmond had a 66-yard touchdown reception while Dixon had 90 yards of offense on 11 touches in LaGrange’s opener vs. Barbe.