First Posted: 11/26/2009
All season long, Mount Airys defensive game plan has been to stop the run. With pass-happy Princeton coming to Wallace Shelton Stadium tonight for a 7:30 p.m. NCHSAA 1A third round playoff game, the Granite Bears will have to flip their philosophy.
Im one who believes you stop the run and you win the game, and thats what we base our defense on, Mount Airy defensive coordinator Chris Johnson said. Now that philosophy has to change a little bit. To beat Princeton, weve got to stop the pass. Were definitely emphasizing the pass.
Leading the offense for the Bulldogs (10-3) is quarterback David Gurganus. He has thrown for 3,777 yards, 34 touchdowns and 16 interceptions this season. He is also the teams leading rusher with 231 yards on the year. His favorite target is Patrick Jacobs, who has 98 catches for nearly 1,600 yards.
Hes a gritty kid, Mount Airy coach Kelly Holder said of Jacobs. He catches the ball well and runs in traffic. He doesnt catch the ball and sit down, he catches the ball and gets yards after the catch.
Holder said Jacobs and other receivers catching the ball is an inevitability. Limiting their yards after the catch is what the Mount Airy defense will have to focus on. A strong pass rush to hurry the quarterbacks decisions will also help.
We know (the pass is) coming all the time, Johnson said. Whether theyre in the lead or theyre losing, to the casual fan every play is going to look like third-and-long from what they do.
The Granite Bears offense is dominated by the ground game. They have rushed for 60 scores this year and average 7.2 yards a carry. But dont expect the home team to milk possessions to keep the Bulldogs offense off the field.
Were not going to try and control the football, Holder said. Were going to run our offense like we always have. If we go three-and-out, we go three-and-out. If we score, we score.
Scoring has not been a problem for the Granite Bears (13-0). Senior running back Andy Temoney is the offensive catalyst. He has rushed for 1,300 yards. Right behind him is Luke Wheeler, with 1,071 yards on the ground. And Mount Airy can also air it out. Quarterback Ben Hinson has thrown for 1,321 yards and 15 scores to go against five picks. Explosive wideout Justin Collier owns 514 of those yards and averages 21.4 yards per catch.
And Temoney might just have a few tricks up his sleeve come game time. Holder said he plans on turning his shifty running back loose.
Sometimes we have fussed at him because he needs to get what he can get instead of shaking and baking so much, Holder said. I realized sometimes you can overcoach a kid and we did. This week I said, Boo, you just need to be Boo.
As impressive as the Bulldogs statistics are, they probably have not faced a team the caliber of Mount Airy, which has won 29 consecutive games and is in the midst of defending its championship. Players like Collier in the secondary and Northwest 1A/2A defensive player of the year Luke Wheeler at linebacker could make those big numbers hard to come by. And thats if Gurganus has time to throw with senior Daryl Valentine and monstrous freshman Julius Coram both of whom are defensive linemen on the prowl.
The Granite Bears have nine picks this season, led by Colliers three. He has also broken up seven passes. Mount Airy has notched 27 sacks, highlighted by Wheelers eight.
But the beauty of football is the numbers and matchups mean nothing once the two teams line up to play. As Holder pointed out, its easy to get caught up in statistics, but everything is relevant.
When you play teams that you dont know and you dont know their competition, you really cant get a good judge of how good they are or how good their talent level is until you step on the field, Holder said. So you practice just like theyre the best team in the world and hes Joe Montana and you hope hes not.
Contact Ed Phillipps at [email protected] or 719-1921.