Eagles to operate with new offense

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 29, 2005

If Fort Dale Academy football coach James Sampley has thinner hair in the fall than now, it's because his premonition came true.

Given that the Eagles return just two starters on offense following the

graduation of 20 senior players, Sampley has decided to scrap his

I-formation offense and try something different.

Like more high schools around the state, Fort Dale Academy will base its

offense in a shotgun-style spread formation offense to keep opposing

defenses guessing.

"I may pull out my hair doing this, but we are going to throw it more this season," said Sampley, who is in his seventh year as head coach. "I think we have the personnel to do it."

Fort Dale will get a chance to see how effective its new spread offense is when it participates in a jamboree with Macon-East Montgomery Academy and Pike Liberal Arts Academy May 20.

Although the Eagles will spread the field with three and sometimes four

receivers, it doesn't necessarily mean Fort Dale will scrap the run game

entirely. By spreading the field, Sampley said that it should create

running seams for either his quarterback or tailback.

And that has to be good news for Tim James, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards last season as a junior tailback.

"We've got to get the ball in his hands somehow," Sampley said.

The question now is who will be the starting quarterback. The competition for the job will begin in earnest on Monday when the Eagles open spring drills.

"Being in the shotgun will be different, so we need a lot of repetitions on offense," Sampley said. "We need to make sure some of our guys who didn't play a lot last year get a lot of work in to see what they can do."

Brady and Ty Newton as well as Casey Weston will get in their fair share of snaps this spring. Then Davis Watts, who was the starting junior varsity quarterback last year, is expected to join the fray in the fall. Watts has been sidelined with a shoulder injury and will miss spring drills, Sampley said.

"I just don't want to risk any further injury with him," Sampley said.

The race for filling the wideout spots will be just as heated. Among those expected to vie for a starting slot include Taylor Hawsey, Ben Coker, Lister Crosby, Bruce Hollyfield, Mika Jones, Adam Vickery and possibly Brady and Ty Newton.

"We have some players who will end up in new positions," Sampley said. "When you go four-wide, you have to expect some change to take place."

Returning starting fullback Peter McGowin may also have to fight to keep his job. Will Langham, who was a starting fullback at Georgiana, transferred to Fort Dale.

"I've seen him play and he's a pretty good ballplayer. He will help us down the road," Sampley said.

Sampley isn't just giving up on the run game, but he said that he didn't believe he had the personnel to play a power game either.

"I believe this game is a gladiator sport and the bigger you are the better you are," Sampley said. "If you're not the biggest guy you don't always win. And when (opponents) stack all 11 people on the line, it's hard to block them all. So we're going to spread them out. We'll open up holes and do some damage that way."

The Eagles will continue to work on their porous defense that returns four starters from last season.

"We were not very good on defense or not as good as we should have been," Sampley said. "I want to learn the personnel and take it and build on it more."