It’s not as easy as it looks. But the Keller Fossil Ridge football team does seem to make rushing look easy.
At any level of football, producing a consistent rushing attack can make the difference from an offense that looks pedestrian to an offense that can’t be stopped.
Fossil Ridge head coach Tony Baccarini begins his 11th season this fall. Through his first 10 seasons, the Panthers have produced a 1,000-yard rusher seven times. Anthony Smith, who is just starting at Texas State, has the last two. He’s also the school’s all-time leading rusher (2,773 yards).
Fossil Ridge has advanced to the postseason six times, including four consecutive. There are expectations for the Panthers to make it a fifth and challenge Abilene for the District 3-6A championship.
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“Once you get into this system, you just get it,” said Fossil Ridge running backs coach James Russell, who accounted for 1,691 yards in Baccarini’s second season (2008) and joined the coaching staff this year.
“In our system, we produce good linemen. But as backs, you have to trust your pad level and read the hole the split second before it opens. If you’re going to run a play that gets five yards, we’re going to go back to it. If it’s not broke, then don’t fix it.”
Baccarini doesn’t label this offense as a spread. He calls it a “Running Gun.” The emphasis is to control the game on the ground between the quarterback and lead running back. Ideally, the quarterback and running back should each rush for 1,000 yards a season.
Fossil Ridge’s running game is based off of gap schemes. It will run the power toss but there are some RPO (run-pass option) plays blended. The backs have typically been about the same size, around 5-10 and 185 pounds.
“It’s really all about us taking what the defense gives us,” Baccarini said. “We always have great wide receivers that give us the opportunity to set up the running game. But the players just have a really good sense of what’s expected.”
Any running game’s success starts with the offensive line. Baccarini credits longtime coaches Josh Acton and Brandon Clay for coaching and developing a group that will give the back the opportunity to thrive. Fossil Ridge returns four starters.
Russell said that when fall camp resumed on Aug. 14, it didn’t take long for the running game to resume its play. It’s both the system and the player.
“They’re all good players and our coaches work very hard to make this line work together and form a unit,” Baccarini said. “It takes a lot for something like this to come together. We’re not a finesse team. We want to establish what we do.”
While its history has been to rely on one back, the Panthers may have a different look in 2017. Baccarini and Russell are evaluating sophomore Colione Evans (6-1, 190), senior Andrew Ramos (6-1, 210) and senior Isaiah Holt (5-10, 180). Each brings something a little different. The Aug. 24 scrimmage against Birdville may tell more how all will be used moving forward.
“I like to think it’s something like a big university program with a good stable of running backs year after year,” Russell said. “It might be different with Evans, Ramos and Holt. We might be able to do a lot of things that we had not done before. I think we could shock people.”