Written by Michael Florek
Multipurpose two-way players let coaches maximize talent in biggest games
What turned out to be Lancaster’s winning score in its 36-29 win over Prosper on Saturday came when quarterback Demarcus Ayers rolled out and threw a pass high, to a point where only 6-6, 230-pound Daeshon Hall could catch it.
The play wasn’t unusual. The receiver was.
Hall, a three-star recruit according to Rivals.com, has orally committed to Washington. As a defensive end.
Hall has two catches this season. Both came against Prosper. Both were touchdowns. He’s now a defensive end and a tight end.
It’s that time of year for football coaches.
“There’s nothing to save anything for,” Lancaster coach Chris Gilbert said. “We’re all for playing them both ways. We kind of have been talking about it all year, but there’s no time like right now.”
Despite the shuffling of players, Gilbert said he’s actually using less of his playbook. The theme is common among other area coaches, who are focusing on better execution of their strengths and possibly using a new wrinkle — like playing an athlete both ways or lining up in a different formation — rather than coming up with a new trick play or moving away from their identity just to surprise an opponent.
Gilbert said he’s relied on his bigger stars all year. But now he wants to make sure if Lancaster goes down, it does so because his opponent beat his best guys.
He had talked about the idea of using Hall and others as two-way players since the beginning of the season, and the players were open to it. But Hall didn’t start practicing at tight end until the beginning of the playoffs.
Nick Harvey has spent most of the year for Lancaster playing defensive back and just about every skill position on offense. He has 697 yards and eight touchdowns receiving, 659 yards and six touchdowns rushing, and 359 yards and four touchdowns passing.
Harvey is challenging Allen’s Oliver Pierce for the Dallas area’s most versatile player. Pierce started the season at quarterback then moved to receiver, a position he played last year. He has 442 yards receiving, 358 yards rushing and 11 total touchdowns. On defense, he plays defensive end on long-yardage situations to pass rush. He also returns punts and kicks.
Frisco Centennial coach Mark Howard hasn’t used anybody both ways. Cornerback Ranthony Texada is capable of splitting out at receiver, but Howard said without practicing on getting the timing down, he would only help when running vertical routes.
Howard said he’s much more likely to have the offense line up in a different formation to throw a defense off, although with three playoff wins by an average of 20 points, he hasn’t had to show his hand.
“We didn’t feel like it was necessary,” Howard said. “If we don’t have to do something different, let’s just save it for the next game when you might need it.”
But now that the teams are going on 14 games, Southlake Carroll coach Hal Wasson said everybody pretty much knows each other. Teams have seen too much of film and know too much of another team’s tendencies to be completely surprised.
There may be a reason for that.
“After 14 games, man, there ain’t a whole lot more you can do,” Gilbert said.
Follow Michael Florek on Twitter at @michaelflorek