Personnel leads New Lex coach to utilize spread offense

Published 1:49 am Thursday, November 6, 2008

During the past few months, voters have heard the political phrase “Change” over and over.

But if you’re a New Lexington Panthers’ fan, you actually saw change.

In the offensive scheme, that is.

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In the past, New Lexington has run a power offense, the veer offense, and even some wishbone.

Veteran coach Bill Nutt made the switch to the spread offense and the result was a 9-1 regular season and a fourth straight postseason playoff berth. The run continued last week with a 42-14 win over Meigs and will extend to Friday night when the Panthers race the Ironton Fighting Tigers in the Region 15 Division IV semifinals at 7:30 p.m. in Jackson.

“We have a lot of skilled kids. We have good athletes and a quarterback who has a good arm and can run. It just suits us better,” said Nutt.

The change was made possible by the emergence of 6-foot-2, 202-pound junior Clint Cannon who was inserted at quarterback to run the spread.

“(Cannon) can run and pass and we have a bunch of receivers. It was a bit of a gamble, but it’s paid off,” said Nutt.

Cannon has improved all season in his new position. He completed 115-of-208 passes for 1,587 yards with eight interceptions during the regular season and he was the team’s leading rusher with 174 carries for 843 yards and 15 touchdowns.

But Cannon hasn’t been a one-man show. His stable of receivers include Brett Wycinski, Matt Etherly and Kyle Bush.

Wycinski is the team’s leading receiver with 41 catches for 611 yards and seven TDs. Etherly has 36 receptions for 497 yards and five scores while Bush has 241 yards on 17 catches and a score.

Also, running back R.J. Starkey has 703 yards on 41 carries.

While the Panthers switched from their power game to the spread, they face an Ironton team that continues to run from the T-formation.

“We haven’t seen the T in awhile,” said Nutt who is in his 27th year of coaching.

“They have a nice, big offensive line that does a super job coming off the ball. (Ironton coach Bob Lutz) has three outstanding backs. They’re the three best backs we’ve seen all year. He has the perfect setup for that offense.

“The quarterback does a good job of running the offense and he can throw. When they want to throw, he has outstanding athlete who can go get it. He’s got the personnel to run that offense.”

Ironton (8-3) beat Westfall and its spread offense 41-31 last week in a game the Fighting Tigers trailed 28-21 at the half. Nutt said Ironton had the perfect defense for Westfall.

“They’re going to hang onto the ball. That’s a great defense,” said Nutt.

New Lexington is the eighth team this season to run the spread offense. Nutt said defending the spread is something that is difficult for all teams, including his own.

“If you’re forcing people to make plays in space, you’re not going to make tackles every play. We run the spread and we have trouble defending it,” said Nutt.

Nutt, 70-27 in his reign as the Panthers’ coach, expects a good, tough game.

“When you get into the second round, it becomes who’s hot and who’s not. You’ve got to be playing well. All team in the playoffs who play well have a chance to move on. The teams who make the fewest mistakes will win. We’re going to have to play very well,” said Nutt.