FORT WAYNE – New Haven football coach Jim Rowland knows what’s missing. It’s right there in the X’s and O’s.
Last year the X’s and O’s lined up in a power I, the better to take advantage of standout running back Anthony Moore and guard Freddie Jones (first-team All-NHC, both of them) and a defense anchored by all-state defensive end Anthony Martin, all-state honorable mention safety Elliott Nelson, and all-NHC linebackers Dillon Carey and Bryce Hieber.
Well, this year all those folks are gone. And the X’s and O’s will be somewhat more creative as a result.
“We’re going to change up our offense a little bit,” Rowland says. “It won’t be that power run you saw last year.”
Mostly that’s because of senior receiver/defensive back Jordan Hogue, who had 25 catches for 586 yards and six touchdowns last year and was Junior All-State at wideout and all-area at defensive back. Rowland plans to move him around some this year as the key piece of an offense that will feature a first-time starter at quarterback (Vance Shearer), a two-year starter at running back (Airiest Vasquez) and a line anchored by three returning starters (Nick Vachon, Jakhari Wilbert and Brandon Stone).
“(Hogue) will line up in up to five different positions this year,” Rowland says. “We’re going to run a lot of different formations this year and move him around and hopefully get some matchup issues with him rather than have him in a predictable spot all the time.”
That likely will result in a better second half of the season than first half – the opposite of what happened last year, when the Bulldogs went 8-3 but lost three of their last four games, including a 22-20 stunner to Norwell in the sectional.
“I think last year we might have peaked a little bit early,” Rowland says. “We had a senior-laden team and started off the year playing really good football. Not saying we weren’t playing good football at the end, but this year might be more of a traditional progression certainly with what we’re installing scheme-wise as the year goes on.”
That will mean the defense will carry the offense a bit, to start. But an influx of young talent from a JV team that went undefeated in conference and a once-beaten freshman team, Rowland hopes, will balance the scales as the year goes on.
“We’re optimistic,” Rowland says.