Elma football coach Jim Hill made the decision to switch his offense following the 2010 season.
Gone was the wing-T, a heavy run-based attack the Eagles had utilized since 2004. In its place was a pass-happy spread.
“To be honest, I’m a running guy at heart. We had several seasons where we led the state in rushing,” said Hill, who enters his 18th season at Elma. “It took a while to convince me to change.”
Hill altered his offensive approach after learning about the Tony Franklin System.
Designed by current Louisiana Tech offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, the high-octane offensive scheme runs everything out of the shotgun formation, relying on a quick-paced style both in its play on the field and with its coaching methods.
“It’s certainly up-tempo,” Hill said. “It’s a fast-moving system. There are no huddles. We are always on the go.”
The goal is to run a play every eight seconds, to constantly be moving while taking advantage of mismatches.
“We thought about making the change (to the spread) about four or five years ago,” Hill said. “We just didn’t have the personnel at the time to do so we stayed with the wing-T.”
With nine starters back on offense – all with a year under their belt in this new scheme – Hill believes he now has the players needed to succeed.
Quarterback Layne Sutten, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound senior, will direct the offense. He started the final three games last year as the Eagles went 4-5 in the Class 1A Southwest Washington Evergreen Division.
The offense relies on a deep receiver rotation, something Elma should have this year.
Seniors Brian Maslen, Alex Carillo and Erick Arkins and junior Todd Swinhart will be Sutten’s favorite targets.
Hill guided Elma to consecutive playoff appearances between 1997 and 2005, winning Class 2A titles in 1997 and 2001. His teams were also state finalists in 1998 and 2002.
“We’ve been having a lot of fun so far this year,” Hill said. “The key for this group is coming together as a team.”
ELMA EAGLES SCHEDULE
Home games in CAPS. * denotes SW Washington 1A Evergreen game. All games at 7 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 31: HOCKINGSON
Friday, Sept. 7: at Eatonville
Friday, Sept. 14: at Tenino *
Friday, Sept. 21: RAINIER *
Friday, Sept. 28: at Rochester *
Friday, Oct. 5: HOQUIAM *
Friday, Oct. 12: at Ilwaco
Friday, Oct. 19: at Forks *
Friday, Oct. 26: MONTESANO *
ABOUT THE EAGLES
Coach: Jim Hill, 18th year
2011 record: 4-5, 4th in league.
Offense: Coordinator (set) – Jim Hill (spread). Returning starters – 9. Top players – WR Erick Atkins, 6-1, 190, sr.; OL Austin Black, 5-11, 180, sr.; RB Brian Magler, 5-8, 170, sr.; RB Layne Sutten, 6-2, 175, sr.; QB Todd Swinhart, 5-8, 150, jr.; OL Joe Wilson, 6-4, 230, soph.
Defense: Coordinator (set) – Ron Clark (4-3). Returning starters – 8. Top players – DL Austin Black, 5-11, 180, sr.; LB Ricky Escalante, 5-8, 190, jr.; DB Brian Magler, 5-8, 170, sr.; DB Layne Sutten, 6-2, 175, sr.; DB Todd Swinhart, 5-8, 150, jr.; DL Joe Wilson, 6-4, 230, soph.
Outlook: The state-playoff dry spell has reached six seasons. That is saying a lot about one of the premier small-school programs in the 1990s, which advanced to nine consecutive postseasons (1997-2005). And maybe the biggest offseason development was Hill bringing back Clark – who resigned at Aberdeen – as an assistant.