After taking over as Maryville's football coach in the spring, Matt Webb went through the process of evaluating all aspects of the program.
Careful of tinkering too much with what former coach Chris Holt had built over six seasons, Webb found room for growth and expansion on the offensive side of the ball.
He felt the Hounds, with the personnel they had coming back, should try to be more multiple on offense, and his current collection of assistants agreed.
So over the summer, the Hounds began installing a shotgun spread formation to supplement their traditional Wing-T attack.
It's one that Webb saw a great deal of during his time as the defensive coordinator at FCS Southeastern Louisiana.
"It's some blended stuff that I've had a hard time stopping in college and understand the effectiveness of," said Webb. "We just blended it with what they were doing here in the past."
Described as putting in "a few wrinkles" at the time, the addition of a sophisticated, modern passing attack has helped make the Hounds even more dynamic and explosive on offense than they were in Holt's final season.
Maryville (13-0) enters Saturday's semifinal home game against California (13-0) at 1:30 p.m. averaging a robust 49.1 points per game and only three times all year have the Hounds been held under 40 points.
Last year, the Hounds averaged 38.1 points per game and their offense totaled just 16 points in losses to Savannah and Richmond.
"I think it's helped all year just to be able to be multiple and really play the game of numbers," said Webb. "Football is played with 11 people and that's an odd number. You can never have enough in the box or enough in coverage. When a defense wants to take one thing away, you got the ability now to hurt them where you got numbers. It's helped us as an entire offense."
The Hounds introduced their new spread attack in the season opener against Lawson, and immediately it clicked for them.
Maryville senior quarterback Jonathan Baker threw three first half touchdown passes, and the Hounds built a 34-0 halftime lead.
Since then, the Hounds have used the package at least one series in every game.
Sometimes a lot more depending on the matchups and how the they are being defended.
Whenever they do, it's been quite effective.
In fact, many of Maryville's most significant offensive plays this year such as Baker's fourth and goal touchdown completion to Kyle Leslie to take the lead in the fourth quarter at Lafayette and his two zone read touchdown runs earlier in the game have come out of the spread set.
These plays simply wouldn't have been available to the Hounds last season.
"It goes back to our coaches," said Webb. "(Offensive coordinator) Matt Houchin and (offensive line coach) Jordan Moree do an outstanding job of blending the two schemes and utilizing our playmakers."
Striving to be balanced this year, Maryville's passing numbers have sky-rocketed, with Baker attempting at least 10 throws in 12 of 13 games.
His season total of 172 passing attempts is 53 more than all of last year despite playing only four full games.
Baker, a Division II recruit, has flourished under the new setup, completing 66.3 percent of his passes for 1,915 yards, 29 touchdowns and four interceptions.
His touchdown total is more than double the 14 he threw last year, while his yardage totals are up from 1,092.
Leslie, senior Ridge Yount, senior Tyler Tripp, McMahon and senior Treyton Burch have provided Baker with an abundance of capable targets to throw to.
And Baker's quarterback zone read plays have provided an added element to Maryville's ground attack which has remained strong even with the excess production in the pass game.
Running occasionally out of the spread, Maryville has totaled 3,739 yards rushing this year for an average of 287.6 per game. Believe it or not, that's actually far surpassed last year's season total of 3,034 yards in 12 games.
"I believe every year you utilize what you're good at," said Webb. "And this year when I came in and evaluated our quarterback and our running backs and our offensive line, just because we're running a little more shotgun, it doesn't mean we're not a run-dominated team. You can run the ball out of the shotgun very effectively. I think if you watch any college football you can see that. It doesn't matter what set you line up in. You can still have the mentality to have a physical running attack. That's kind of where we blended some of those thoughts."
California is the next opponent that will try its hand at slowing down the Hounds multifaceted attack.
The Pintos have given up just 92 points all season with shutouts in five of 13 games.
Centralia is the only team to reach 20 points against them all year.
Kansas City Center brought similar defense numbers to the table, allowing 98 points on the season, but the Hounds accrued half that total in a 49-26 quarterfinal win.
By Joey Falkoff email@example.com
The Maryville Daily Forum - Maryville, MO
By Joey Falkoff firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated Nov. 14, 2012 @ 10:01 pm
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