published Friday, August 19th, 2011

Football Preview: Gordon Lee spreading offensive wings

Gordon Lee coach Kevin McElhaney added some offensive help with assistants Chsrlie Wiggins and Greg Ellis.
Gordon Lee coach Kevin McElhaney added some offensive help with assistants Chsrlie Wiggins and Greg Ellis.

GORDON LEE TROJANS

Coach: Kevin McElhaney (24-29 here; 44-69 overall)

Returning starters (O/D/K): 7/8/0

Remember these names: The Trojans return several strong skill players, including running back/defensive back Klay Durham (Sr., 5-8, 175), quarterback Ryan Chastain (Sr., 6-1, 175) and running backs/linebackers Adam Vandiver (Jr., 5-8, 175) and Blake Teeters (Jr., 6-1, 220). Both lines, however, suffered heavy graduation losses, so a group that includes Cory Jewell (Jr., 6-1, 195) must produce right away.

Will be a memorable year if: The Trojans return to the playoffs following a rare two-year absence. Region 6, however, has become one of the top Class A leagues in the state, led by returning semifinalist Darlington and always-strong programs in Bowdon and Bremen to go with rival Trion.

Schedule

Aug. 19 at Silverdale Baptist

Aug. 26 Dade County

Sept. 16 Walker*

Sept. 23 at Bremen*

Sept. 30 River Ridge

Oct. 7 Mt. Paran*

Oct. 14 at Mt. Zion, Carroll*

Oct. 21 Bowdon*

Oct. 28 at Trion*

Nov. 4 at Darlington*

* Region 6-A game

Hybrids are all the rage on the road these days, a way for drivers to maximize gasoline dollars while getting great reliability.

Hybrids on the football field, especially scheme-wise, are being used much less. High school teams are going either pass-happy with the spread or run-first with the tried-but-true wing-T or I-formation. At Gordon Lee this season, the hybrid will be on full display as the Trojans try to combine their last two offenses into one mean unit.

“Last year we went all spread, and the year before we ran the wing-T. This year we’re kind of meshing the two, running a little of each,” senior quarterback Ryan Chastain explained. “We can pound it on the ground or spread it out when we need to. it should be a great fit for us.”

Added coach Kevin McElhaney, who has entrusted spread guru Charlie Wiggins and former Gordon Lee head coach and Signal Mountain assistant Greg Ellis with formulating the offense: “It should help us utilize our personnel in the best way. We’ve got some good experience in the skill positions, but we’re young up front. This way, depending on the defense, we can attack the weakest point.”

While Gordon Lee, 4-6 a year ago, lacks size and experience up front, the Trojans have a bit of both in the backfield. Chastain himself combines a 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame with 4.6 speed in the 40, while backs Klay Durham and Adam Vandiver also have better-than-average speed. Blake Teeters (6-1, 220) will serve as Mr. Inside.

When the Trojans pass, the backs will be used extensively to complement wide receiver Hayden Moore and tight end Bryce Bailey. It’s an offense that doesn’t wow observers in pregame warmups but can confound opponents once the whistle blows, its leader believes.

“We’re not necessarily the biggest team in town, but we never stop,” Chastain said. “We know we’re not going to out-physical many teams, but we can outwork them.”

MEMORY LANE

The Gordon Lee-Trion game will draw a big crowd regardless of the records of the team, and rarely does the game go as expected — as evidenced by the Trojans’ 13-6 overtime upset a year ago.

However, the 1974 game lived up to its billing and is regarded as the best game in the long history of this heated rivalry. Each team entered the regular-season finale 9-0, and downtown Chickamauga was overflowing with fans several hours before kickoff as an estimated crowd of 4,500 filled the stadium. The winner would earn the Region 6-B championship and a playoff berth. The loser’s season would be over.

Led by running backs Randy Peace, Jeff Bowers and Tim Perry, Trion was ranked No. 1 in the state, while the Trojans of coach Bobby Chappell had their own powerful running game featuring Russell Brown and Matt Oliver and were ranked third. Perry’s 35-yard touchdown run capped a 75-yard Trion drive in the first half, but the Trojans were on their way to tying the game after taking the second-half kickoff 68 yards to the Trion 2.

However, a fumble killed the drive and the Bulldogs ate up clock with two long drives, a 90-yarder that ended with a missed field goal and a 71-yarder capped by Peace’s 26-yard field goal with 28 seconds to play. Trion would go on to win the state championship — the last by a northwest Georgia team, leaving many Gordon Lee followers believing that title would have been theirs if this game had gone the other way.

about Lindsey Young...

Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...

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