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Airing it out: Fresh offensive approach working for Park football team

Park offensive coordinator Tim Walton talks to his offense during a recent game. The Wolfpack are averaging roughly 369 yards per game. (Bulletin photo by Nick Gerhardt) 1 / 3
Park junior receiver Jeb Melson hauls in a pass. The 6-foot, 5-inch receiver has been a weapon for the Wolfpack this season. (Submitted photo by Scott Briggs)2 / 3
Park quarterback Brandon Alt throws a pass in a recent game. Propelled by new offensive schemes, Alt, a freshman, is fifth in the state and second in the Suburban East Conference in passing yards. (Bulletin photo by Nick Gerhardt)3 / 3

A few years ago, the Park football team took a page from the New York Jets for their new uniforms. Now, it seems like they may have adopted New York’s showtime state of mind as well.

Park's coaching staff knew the team faced a disadvantage from a numbers standpoint this season, so they tailored the offense to what suits the players the best.

What’s resulted is a more explosive offense this season for the Wolfpack and a more enjoyable season for the players because of the wide-open approach the offense has taken.

Most of the Park offense takes place in the spread formation with the quarterback taking the snap from shotgun. It relies on speed and precision and the Wolfpack have run it efficiently this season. Last year, the Wolfpack finished with a 34.1 percent completion rate with three passing touchdowns against 10 interceptions. The offense struggled throughout the season and managed seven points or fewer in five games.

Not this year.

Through seven weeks, Park has only been held in single digits once and has scored over 20 points four times. In the Wolfpack’s two wins this season they scored 33 and 36 points against White Bear Lake and Woodbury, respectively.

The Park offense ranked No. 3 in the Suburban East Conference in total average yards with 369.5 per game after six weeks of play. The Wolfpack’s passing offense ranked second in total passing yards with 1,570 through Week 6. Park trailed just Roseville, which had 1,679 yards of passing behind senior standout quarterback Jacques Perra, who is second in the state in total passing yards and third in the state with 20 touchdowns. The Wolfpack had the fourth most passing touchdowns in the conference after Week 6. Conversely, Park also led the league in interceptions with 12, which was five more than the next most in the conference.

The Wolfpack started the season with senior quarterback Sam Domeier, but one game into the year Domeier suffered a season-ending ankle injury, leaving Park to rely on freshman quarterback Brandon Alt. Alt had completed 53.7 percent of his passes through six weeks and also led the conference in pass attempts with 177, despite playing one fewer game than other quarterbacks. Alt ranked second in passing yards to Perra with 1,213.

Senior wide receiver Elias Arlington led the league with 40 receptions. He trailed only Roseville’s Jester Horstad, who led the league by nearly 200 yards, in total receiving yards. Horsted also had a five touchdown lead on the rest of the receivers in the conference. Park junior Jeb Melson, a 6-foot-5 target, was third in the conference in total yards with 347, trailing Arlington by 100 yards. Add in senior wide receiver Ken Gay, who ranked fifth in total receiving yards with 329 and the Wolfpack have put together a dynamic passing attack this season.

In addition to the spread, Park also introduced what it calls the “Bulldog” offense, which is based on the single wing offense, where it lines up its biggest players, including defensive players, on the offensive line and running a direct snap to a runner in the backfield flanked by two other running backs, and includes linebacker Anthony Valladares in a hybrid fullback role. That offense produced a clock-killing, 18-play opening drive Friday against Cretin-Derham Hall. The drive stalled, but showcased how versatile the offense has been this season.

It’s an offense not seen by many, including Park head coach Darin Glazier. The first time Glazier saw the offense came when Park offensive coordinator Tim Walton showed it to him on a videotape, Glazier said.

Walton said he picked up the single wing offense from a friend who coaches in suburban Chicago.

“Last year we were in a situation where we were at our third string quarterback,” Walton said. “We felt that the single wing gave us an option.”

In the Bulldog, Arlington and two runners, junior Hunter Burbank along with either junior Brandyn Tulloch or senior Kyle McDonough, stand in the backfield. Arlington usually handles the snap and either hands off or rushes himself.

“I think it has a lot to do with the two victories we have,” Glazier said. “It keeps teams off guard. It creates a lot of frustration for coaches on the other side trying to adjust. With a couple of gifted runners back there it works out well.”

The offense has been fun for both coaches and players to run this season.

“It kind of fits my personality where I like it to move, I like the up-tempo style, I want to play fast, coach fast,” Walton said. “It’s a fun teaching and learning environment because of the energy that comes out of it and the kids are so involved in the learning process.”

While some programs run the same offense for years and throughout the youth program, others have to adjust year-in and year-out. Glazier and his staff adopted the latter. Glazier said in order to run programs that have success through running a cohesive offense teams have to have tradition on their side and success on their side. Trying to mandate something through the lower level would have been a difficult route, Glazier said.

“It doesn’t do any good to run a certain offense if you’re not winning games,” Glazier said.

Walton said a young, inexperienced line factored into the decision-making with the offense. With pass blocking easier to understand for young lineman than run blocking Walton saw the benefit of a more pass-orientated offense. Park has run its no-huddle offense to force defenses to play fewer coverages and that’s allowed the offense to key in on certain plays to produce big plays.

It’s also an incredibly appealing offense to the players because of its speed and wide open passing approach.

“It’s a lot more fast,” Alt said. “The way our offense is set up is speed, that’s the key.”

Alt admitted he has found himself having to calm down quickly after a big play because of the frenetic pace at times this season.

“I’m having a blast,” Alt said. “I’m having a blast with this whole team.”

-Nick Gerhardt