Experienced backfield, offensive line paces Utica Stevenson football
September 18, 2012
The fact that the Utica Stevenson football team is averaging nearly three times as many points as it did last season has more to do with experience than scheme, according to coach Steve Goralski.
Goralski, whose Titans sat at 2-1, 1-1 in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division at press time, said experience in key spots on offense has led to Stevenson tallying 34.7 points per game through three games. The Titans scored just 12.8 points per contest in 2011.
“We were really young last year. We had a quarterback who played defensive back and who had never played quarterback before. Now, our offense is led by two senior running backs and two senior offensive linemen,” said Goralski, speaking of running backs Trevon Bauch and Jonathan Griffin, and offensive linemen Adel Oro and Ryan Hines.
“We haven’t changed the way we play. We just have guys who have gained valuable experience.”
The inexperience played a role in Stevenson finishing 1-8 in 2011, which saw the Titans miss the postseason for a second straight year.
Turnovers and an inability to sustain drives led to the disappointing finish for a program that battled its way to a Michigan High School Athletic Association state runner-up finish in 2009.
Stevenson employs a junior quarterback — Kyle Maxson — but a running-centric offense takes pressure off Maxson and doesn’t call for him to carry the offense, according to Goralski.
Running the football effectively was one of Goralski’s keys to the season. He said he understands a solid running game can open up an offense and keep a defense guessing.
“Everything myself and the other running backs get, we owe it to our offensive line,” said Griffin, a second-year varsity player. “The line makes things so much easier for us, so we’re able to get yards and keep the ball moving.”
Employing a strong offensive line can also lead to big plays in the passing game, as witnessed by Maxson’s two big touchdown throws — 27 yards and 54 yards — in Stevenson’s 49-0 win over Utica Ford II Sept. 7.
“He’s going to make some mistakes now and then, but he’s always been a quarterback, so being able to run the ball makes things a little easier on (Maxson),” Goralski said. “We’re able to control the ball much more than last season, too.”
Oro, in his second year with the Titans, said players coming together in the offseason has played a major part in the offense’s renaissance. He added he believes that bond is necessary if any team is going to succeed.
“You need so many things to click on offense from so many different positions. You have to be close as a group or things won’t work,” Oro said. “And we have better skill players who can go out and make plays.”
Only one-third of the way through the season, Stevenson’s offense is a major reason why the Titans have already doubled their win total from last season. Goralski has bigger goals in mind, though. He said he would like his Titans to be 5-1 going into their final three contests: at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (Oct. 5) and Utica Eisenhower (Oct. 12), and a home season finale with Warren Mott Oct. 19.
If that goal is reached, Stevenson would need to go just 1-2 in those last three games to qualify for the state playoffs.
“We’ve all worked so hard,” Oro said. “We’re going all out this year.”
The Titans’ next game is against Romeo High, set for 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at Romeo.