Friday night flight could be coming to an end.
In his first two seasons as coach at Mesa Desert Ridge, Jeremy Hathcock’s offensive game plan was to pass, pass and pass some more.
But it’s not like he had a choice. A lack of strength on the offensive line rendered a running game moot and forced the quarterback to get rid of the ball in a hurry for fear of being trampled.
“When I got here, our strongest player could bench press 185 pounds 10 times,” Hathcock said. “Now I’ve got wide receivers doing that.”
Last season, the running game consisted of screen passes to get skill players in space. This year, with three offensive linemen returning, it’ll be the more conventional route between the tackles.
Hathcock expects teams to game-plan for the pass, and he’s still going to use an aerial attack more than most high schools. But defenses beware.
“If they want to go crazy with it, keep six people in the box, then we’ll sneak up on people with the run,” Hathcock said.
While the offense has never had trouble putting up points, it’s how the defense fares that will make or break Desert Ridge’s season.
Last season’s pass-heavy offense lengthened games and could have led to inflated point totals for opponents, but Hathcock refuses to use that as a crutch.
“I’m not going to lie,” he said. “We were soft. People put it on us.”
This season, Hathcock expects a faster, stronger and, most importantly, better defense. It will be led by defensive back Chris Jamison and linebacker Prosper Chukwu.
They’ll be tested plenty, with nonregion games against Peoria Centennial and Mesa Red Mountain before Pima Region action.
Hathcock doesn’t know how it will end up. But he knows his kids are ready.
“We’ve got a countdown clock to Centennial and everything,” he said. “They’re champing at the bit to get after it.”