The wing-T offense has always been football’s version of the shell game.
It creates defensive uncertainty, making defenders choose which player to react to and a dizzying amount of post-snap movement and ball fakes. You guess one way, only to find the ball is in the arms of another back sprinting into open field 15 yards away.
If ever there was a team perfectly suited to run the wing-T, it would be the 2016 Ferndale Golden Eagles.
In running backs Ben Broselle, Justice Powell and Cole Semu, the Golden Eagles have three backs equally capable of breaking a big play at any given time.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had three backs this equal and this talented,” Ferndale coach Jamie Plenkovich said. “You think back, and there’s certainly not been a group we’ve had where all three backs could make big plays. In the past, we might have had more of a mix – one guy might be more of a guy that would pound you, while the others had speed. All three of our guys have the ability to take it and make big plays for us.”
The fourth-ranked Golden Eagles (7-0, 4-0 3A Wesco North) hope the trio can turn enough big plays Saturday, Oct. 22, when they take on No. 2 Squalicum (7-0, 4-0) at Civic Stadium in a game that will decide the division title and which team will be the Wesco’s No. 2 seed to the Week 10 quad-district playoffs in two weeks.
When you’re not having a big game and not getting a lot of carries, your big plays are making blocks to free your teammates for a big run.
Ferndale senior running back Justice Powell
The Storm likely will have its hands full shutting down the Ferndale backs. Broselle, Powell and Semu have averaged nearly 300 yards per game and 9.1 yards per carry, rushing for a combined 2,064 yards. Of the 29 touchdowns they’ve scored, 13 have been for more than 20 yards – seven from beyond midfield.
“It’s awesome,” Broselle said. “No matter where we’re at on the field or what play we want to run, we have the potential to get long runs and score.”
And if the defense focuses on stopping one back, there are two others plenty capable of burning them.
In last week’s 35-18 win over Oak Harbor, Powell was held to 6 yards on four carries, but Semu rushed for 165 yards and two TDs and Broselle amassed 114 yards and two scores. A week earlier, it was Powell leading the way with 150 yards and three touchdowns against Stanwood.
“If you’re stopping one person, we’ve got two other guys that can attack from other angles,” Powell said. “I feel like a defense can’t take all three of us out of the game. Once you key on me, I know the other guys will step up.”
And As if that were tough enough, there’s a fourth shell in this game equally capable of making a defense pay. Quarterback James Hinson has proven to be a valuable fourth option taking to the air. Though Ferndale has not traditionally been known as a passing power, Hinson has thrown for 678 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Some teams have figured out how to stop one of us, but I think it would be pretty tough to stop all of us.
Ferndale senior running back Ben Broselle
“When you run the wing-T, defenses have to focus on the run,” Hinson said. “That opens some things up for the passing game, and when the passing game has some success, that opens things up for the running game.”
Plenkovich credited all four players for their hard work together, pushing each other during offseason workouts for making them even more dangerous this year.
Not surprisingly, three of Hinson’s top targets have been Broselle, Powell and Semu, who have combined for 429 receiving yards and six TDs – half of which came from more than 30 yards out.
As Broselle said, “You can’t be the perfect backfield if you can’t catch and run. You need balance.”
Hinson certainly appreciates that balance when he drops back.
“When I look down the field and I don’t see anything, I know I can just dump it off to Cole or one of those guys and watch them take it 25 yards,” Hinson said. “That’s all him. I’m just throwing it 5 yards left or 5 yards right. It’s nice knowing I don’t have to force it into my primary target.”
We all want each other to do the best we can. … The run game sets up the passing game. Every time we get a passing touchdown, it’s because of the job those guys are doing running the ball.
Ferndale junior quarterback James Hinson
With as many options as Ferndale has, there’s no reason to force it to anybody. Instead, it’s all about finding the right option against what a defense will give or who has the hot hand.
“Josh Shimek’s our offensive coordinator this year, and the guys coaching the offensive line have been trying to put guys in position to have a fair amount of success,” Plenkovich said. “It’s been a lot of fun designing plays to get the guys we have in open space where they can do something with the ball, whether it’s running the ball or throwing it.”
And, Plenkovich said, despite the talent each possesses, they also understand they’re stronger together, and that means they might not always get a chance to show their abilities as often as they’d like.
“They’re all competitors,” Plenkovich said. “So they all want the ball. But what’s been great is we’ve been able to explain to them why it might vary from week to week. They’re all able to understand that, and they’re all great team guys that care more about the team winning. However we can get a win, they’re good with it.”
Ferndale’s golden backfield