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November 20, 2009
Total coverage: QB in SC sees foe drop 11 men
MORE: Game of the Week: No. 27 Allen (TX) vs. No. 50 Carroll (TX) | Weekend of great games
Dallas Jackson is the high school sports expert for RivalsHigh.com. Send him a question or comment at DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him at twitter.com/rivalshigh.
When Justin Worley broke the huddle, led his team to the line and scanned the defense, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Then the 6-foot-4 junior from Rock Hill (South Carolina) Northwestern took the snap and dropped back into the pocket.
And everything was different.
There was no pressure. None. The opposition - at a loss to slow down Northwestern's passing attack - did not rush anyone. It dropped all 11 players into coverage.
"I had never seen anything like it," Northwestern offensive coordinator Kyle Richardson said. "A lot of times teams will try new things against us, but that one was unique."
Teams have been trying gimmick defenses all season against Worley. Mostly to no avail. The gunslinger has thrown for 3,457 yards, 32 touchdowns; he has completed 68 percent of his passes. He will seemingly have his pick of scholarship offers, as Florida, LSU, Stanford, Tennessee, North Carolina and Stanford have all offered before his senior season is in even sight.
On this play, he had his pick of receivers. And all the time in the world to decide.
"We work on a lot of different things in practice because we never know how people will try to stop us," he said.
This one stumped him.
"I had no idea what to do," Worley said.
He soon figured it out; amazingly he completed a pass on the play.
Rock Hill soon figured out this was no mistake.
"At first I thought it was a busted play but then they ran it again," Richardson said. "The second time I threw my hands up and laughed."
Richardson was entertained more by the reaction of his offensive lineman than the defensive scheme.
"They looked like a cat watching a ping-pong game," he said. "On film it was hilarious, all five kids heads turning left-right-left-right and no one to block."
As it turned out, it was just the latest failed effort to slow a seemingly unstoppable offense.
The school has won three consecutive South Carolina AAAA Region III titles and has not lost a game to a region member going a perfect 15-0.
"Some people who have never played us try to all-out blitz," Richardson said. "Towards the end of last year and all of this season people have thought that dropping eight, nine or more has been the way to stop us."
Neither approach has been very effective as the Trojans have averaged a shade under 40-points per game in region play this season.
"We really see a lot of junk defenses," Richardson said. "Teams will do things in our games that they won't do in any other game during the season.
"We have to simulate as much as we can each week of practice."
Having his offense play against 14 defenders has helped prepare his team for some very unusual defenses.
"We will do our 7-on-7 drills except have the defense use 11," Richardson said. "After that team dropped 11 on us we will play with all 11 on offense and use 14 on defense. We tell the defense to run a set defense and have the other kids out there to cause confusion.
"We don't tell our quarterbacks who to throw to. They throw to grass, and our receivers get open."
That practice has made for a very confident quarterback.
"We don't go into games worrying about what the other teams normally do," Worley said. "A lot of that stuff changes against us. Our offense makes it easy to find the open receiver."
This season that open receiver has been 6-foot 170-pound Robert Joseph.
Joseph, who now has two state receiving records, has tallied a record 116 catches (and counting) for 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2009. His biggest game was a state-best 22 receptions earlier this season.
"(Robert) has worked very hard this season to prove a lot of people wrong," Richardson said. "A lot of people were saying that we would not be as successful without the playmakers we had last year out wide and he has shown to be just as good."
Richardson regularly admits that the offense may not be as explosive as in the 2008 season, but he said it is more efficient.
The Trojans averaged 20 first downs per game in region play and cruised to a 53-0 first-round playoff victory over Florence (South Carolina) South Florence.
Northwestern runs almost an exact replica of the Hal Mumme version of the spread offense, with very few nuances.
"We have to make some tweaks," Richardson said. "But I want teams to blitz us on every play."
Or at least just send one rusher.