The package is called “Tiger” and once a week since the second game of the season Oak Grove practiced the hybrid multi-back formation.
By ZACHARY SPAIN
Special to The Star
Down 16 at halftime on Saturday and forced to adjust to heavy wind and the defense of undefeated, defending Missouri Class 3 champion Maryville, the Panthers finally used it.
Relying on direct snaps to side-by-side running backs Aaron Graham and Ethan Fugitt, plus a litany of misdirection plays, Oak Grove tested the No. 1-ranked Spoofhounds in the third quarter, twice cutting the lead to eight and building hope for an upset.
But the constant wind that made passing and punting difficult and signals at the line of scrimmage hard to communicate cost the fourth-ranked Panthers in their 42-20 home semifinal loss.
“They are the champs for a reason,” Oak Grove coach Pat Richard said. “We played hard, but you have to play almost error-free to beat a team like that.”
Still, the “Tiger” formation offered an interesting wrinkle.
“They were surprised,” said Graham, who ran for 184 yards in 33 carries. “It was fun to try something new. And we were able to execute a couple of times.”
As each team traded ends each quarter, the strategy changed depending on the wind direction.
Oak Grove opted to try to convert on fourth down instead of punting when facing the wind. The Panthers attempted just four passes.
And with the wind at its back, Maryville played aggressively. Quarterback Trent Nally completed five of six passes, all but one of them with the wind, for 137 yards.
Both of his touchdown passes came off play-action fakes. Nally’s 42-yard TD pass to Payden Dawson gave the Spoofhounds a 14-6 lead in the second. In the third, he hit Brody McMahon for a 32-yard touchdown pass that made it 28-14.
Otherwise, the Spoofhounds, 12-0, played for field position and advantageous situations against the conditions.
“The wind was a big part of this game,” Maryville coach Matt Webb said. “It was a factor all game.”
Fugitt scored on a 2-yard run that cut it to eight with 4:21 left in the third, but Maryville defensive adjustments and Panthers’ errors and penalties out of the unfamiliar formation kept Oak Grove, 11-2, from scoring again.
“We gave them a run there in the third quarter,” said Richard, whose team’s 20 points were the most allowed by Maryville this season. “But like champs, they bounced back.”