Fox maximizing passing game in unbeaten start
For four years, Fox ran the opposition into the ground, only to fall short come playoff time.
Now, things are literally looking up.
With a core group from the Class of 2012 having graduated, the Foxes (4-0) were suspected to have a slight drop off in District B-2. But Brent Phelps' group is unbeaten heading into week 5 against Macomb (0-4).
What's special about this season is the method in which the Foxes have blasted through their initial four-game stretch, outscoring opponents 202-52 primarily via the pass rather than the ground-and-pound play of years past.
The run game is still big at the Foxes Den, but the pass is the present.
"As every coach has to do, you look at your kids you've got and you adapt your offense, your defense according to what you have," said Phelps on Tuesday, eager to show off one of his signature passing plays in practice. "It's really been fairly easy with the bunch we have, because they're real coachable; they listen, they do what you tell them."
Fox's passing game is a product of personnel. The Foxes lost six seniors that shared a bulk of the carries for the past four years in Justin Cornelius, Dalton Whatley, Dakota Whatley, Chris Spigner, Ryan Garza and Bryan Garza.
With a group that loses size but still has some speed, Phelps thought upping the passing game was a good move. He's proven to be right, as the Foxes have ended three of their four games before the fourth quarter this season via the mercy rule.
Seventeen of Fox's 30 offensive touchdowns have come through the air.
"We lost like four of our major power backs, so we had to resort to what we had," said senior receiver Keaton Argo, who has 339 yards receiving and six touchdown catches. "We had receivers and a little bit of speed, so that's what we do. We have a good line that gives us time to be able to do the stuff we do and good receivers.
"Basically it's the same plays almost, just through the air."
"We keep the same basic terminology we had, but we attack it differently," Phelps said. "We have to do different schemes in order to utilize the talent we have."
Junior quarterback Taylor Townsend got plenty of snaps last year and has come out firing with 17 touchdown passes — seven of which have gone to versatile running back William Lovely. Even with the success through the air, however, Fox's offense is still keyed off its running game, said Phelps.
Townsend said the explosiveness thus far is a product of the team's maturity, not just because of a few players or offensive changes.
"We had talent, we just had to have people step up in their positions and do their job," Townsend said. "We don't have any all-stars out here this year; we're working together as a team."
With last year's district champion Davenport now in District B-4, the Foxes are the team to beat in B-2. Fox's only two losses last season were in the regular season to Davenport, which was a state finalist in Class B, and to eventual state champion Caddo in the second round of the postseason.
Nearly mid-way through this season, the Foxes' air-it-out offense is keeping their title hopes promising.
"We still have a long way to go in the season," Argo said. "But it feels pretty good to know you have players that are almost just as good or as good as the people we had last year."
Erik K. Horne