AMERICAN CANYON – The terminology for the offensive linemen is the same as last year. The same blocking schemes are in place from last year.
But instead of running the Houston split-back veer, the American Canyon High School football team has turned to the Show Gun offense.
Put in by first-year head coach Ernie Lawson and his staff, it’s a fast-paced, high-tempo offense designed to get as many playmakers on field at the same time.
“I love the offense,” Lawson said after practice Tuesday night. “I think the offense is fantastic.
“It does a few things for us. It makes the read a little bit easier for the quarterbacks in a traditional two-back veer. It also gives us a lot more passing threats than a traditional two-back veer, which I like.”
The Show Gun, modeled after what head coach Tony Annese is using at Ferris State University, an NCAA-Division II school, in Big Rapids, Michigan, is working for American Canyon.
The Wolves (6-2 overall, 3-0 Solano County Athletic Conference) are in first place going into Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. game against Bethel at Wolf Den Stadium. American Canyon closes out the 10-game regular season at home on Nov. 7 against Benicia.
“We’re still able to get a spread-type feeling with a downhill running game that the veer provides,” said Earl Joseph III, the Wolves’ offensive coordinator. “I think the most important thing that has made us successful is the fact that we still get a strong downhill running game with our offensive linemen.
“We feel like we need to get more of our athletes on the field. We’re excited about getting our athletes the ball. It’s paid dividends, because we’re able to get more athletes the football, and put the ball in their hands.
“It’s really unique, and I feel that’s why I think teams have a hard time stopping it, because you still have the spread element of it. But you’ve still got the downhill-running element of it.”
American Canyon is averaging 337.5 yards rushing and 88 yards passing per game.
The Wolves are led by quarterback Louis Michael, who has rushed for 805 yards and 11 touchdowns, while passing for 700 yards with seven TDs and three interceptions.
Michael is a transfer from Hercules High (Contra Costa County) who is a leader for the Wolves.
“I’m grateful that they allowed me the chance to play quarterback,” said Michael.
Gary Cooper (461 yards rushing, seven TDs), Jethro Opinaldo (308 yards, three TDs), and Michael Chisley (306 yards, four TDs) have also been very productive in the run game.
“He runs the ball hard, he makes matchups hard for you,” Joseph said of Cooper. “At any given point he can have a big run. He can take it 80 yards, or pound it on fourth and 3. He’s a tough runner. He puts the team on his back.”
The Wolves’ offensive line, which has performed well, consists of Tacuma Jones (center), Nathan Gutierrez (left guard), Sergio Toral (right guard), Dave Johnson (left tackle) and Mark Mijares (right tackle).
Lawson has been impressed with the way Michael and Cooper have adjusted to the new offense and the way in which they compete.
“I think they’ve done their best to try to learn it, and I think it’s shown,” the coach said. “The two things about them that have allowed them to be good is that the two compete really well.”
Lawson heard about the Show Gun at a clinic a few years ago. One of Annese’s assistants gave a presentation on the offense.
“Ever since then I loved it,” said Lawson.
Ferris (8-0) is the region’s only remaining unbeaten team as the Bulldogs are currently listed first in the initial NCAA Division II Super Region Four Rankings. The NCAA Regional Rankings help determine the six teams in each region that will receive NCAA Division II Playoff bids at the end of the season.
FSU, which has won a Division II nation-leading and school-record tying 12-straight games dating back to last year, is the lone remaining unbeaten squad in Super Region Four.
In addition, the Bulldogs moved up to fifth in this week’s American Football Coaches Association Division II National Rankings and were listed fifth as well in the most recent D2football.com poll.
Annese was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2011. He posted a mark of 195-41 in 22 seasons as a prep head coach at Montrose, Ann Arbor Pioneer, Jenison and Muskegon High Schools while making 15 playoff appearances and five trips to the state semifinals, including three state championships.
In Annese’s last stop as a prep head coach at Muskegon High School, he led the Big Reds to a 92-15 record in nine seasons and claimed three Division II state titles over his last five seasons.
He took over as head coach at Grand Rapids Community College in 2009 and turned the Raiders into a national junior college power. GRCC claimed the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II National Championship under his guidance in both 2009 and 2011.
Annese was tabbed as the NJCAA Regional Coach of the Year all three seasons and led the Raiders to a three-year mark of 30-4 overall.