Saints want to keep offense balanced with new WRs

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; What worked with Trinity Episcopal&8217;s offense last year will likely be the key this fall: Stevan Ridley at quarterback, roll out to one side and have the standout back either run it or throw it.

Only this time there will be changes.

The Saints lost their top two receivers from last year in Kris Ford and Tripp Bryant, and the two took with them 42 catches for 777 yards and 13 touchdowns. One objective this spring has been to find three or four solid receivers to fill in to keep the attack going and keep defenses guessing.

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There is Parker Brumfield, Wells Middleton and Clint Easom at wideout. And don&8217;t be surprised if tight Matthew Freeman lines up wide.

&8220;We really haven&8217;t run it that much,&8221; junior-to-be Freeman said. &8220;Our main two wideouts will be Clint and Wells. We probably won&8217;t run it as much this year, even though we don&8217;t have Kris or Tripp. A lot more running plays. Not many people can tackle Stevan.&8221;

But head coach David King likes the potential the offense has with Ridley throwing the ball a little farther than he did last year, Easom and Middleton catching the ball better and even Freeman showing some ability at going deep and catching a ball.

It&8217;s not that the Saints will get away from running the ball with Ridley this fall when they drop back down to Class A. But, oh, the possibilities.

&8220;Both of them have real good hands,&8221; King said. &8220;The weight room has helped both of them. The thing about it is everyone thinks we&8217;re going to line up and run Stevan every play. The bottom line is Stevan throws well enough to keep people off guard and keep him from being covered up all the time. He throws the ball better than people give him credit for.&8221;

It&8217;s the possibilities that have the Saints enamored with spreading out the offense this fall and making defenses guess. It worked for the last year down the stretch in Class AA when defenses had to pick their poison &8212; either tackle Ridley before he throws it or cover up the receivers and hope he doesn&8217;t run it.

Most teams in Class A are run-oriented and won&8217;t see the offense the Saints hope to employ very often. And you can bet everyone in the entire class knows about Ridley and what he can do.

&8220;Whatever situation we&8217;re in, we&8217;ll go with what the coaches feel,&8221; guard Mark Harveston said. &8220;Usually, that&8217;s always right. Stevan is a lot bigger and faster. It&8217;s going to be a fun year. It helped the team so much when we had to go to double-A, and now we&8217;re dropping back into single-A. We should be dominant.&8221;

Easom had the biggest contribution last season catching the ball with 11 receptions for 187 yards. Most of his catches came after lining up in the backfield, and Brumfield caught some passes when he didn&8217;t line up at quarterback with Ridley behind him.

The newcomer is Freeman, the biggest target at 6-1, 200 pounds who may do more this fall than just blocking.

&8220;All the kids have worked hard at catching the ball, but Freeman&8217;s hands are really good,&8221; King said. &8220;He&8217;s just a 10th-grader. He has good, good hands and good speed.&8221;

Or Freeman can line up at fullback to share time with Kyle Ketchings in the running game behind an offensive line that lost only one player from last year and welcomed back one who left years ago.

Patrick Blanchard, who attended Trinity before moving to the Atlanta area, is back and is getting some reps in up front. The Saints had only one senior last year up front in Kyle Dunaway and will have three seniors returning this fall in Harveston, Kolby Godfrey and Taylor Fleming.

&8220;He was a great lineman, and he was a big part of the team,&8221; Harveston said of Dunaway. &8220;(Losing one) will give us some depth this year. Last year we didn&8217;t have much depth. We did get much better, and it&8217;s going to be better for the team.&8221;

That&8217;s another reason why the Saints are hoping to be one of the top teams in Class A this fall &8212; not just because of Ridley but what they do with him. Two years of playing in Class AA showed the team that anything is possible, and theyhope

to translate that into wins back in the lower classification.

&8220;We&8217;ve always felt that a big part of our success in single-A is being able to spread it out and throw it around,&8221; King said. &8220;We believe we can line up and run a lot of attack football. But we want to keep the other stuff we&8217;ve got because our kids enjoy running the stuff.&8221;