By Jonathan Deal
For the past six years, East Limestone’s opponents knew what they were getting when they faced the Indians. Head coach Jeff Pugh’s smash-mouth, run first approach has been a constant during his tenure in Capshaw.
East Limestone had some success last season running that offense with running back Torren Haley and quarterback Matthew Franks, but ran up against a buzz saw, playing one of the toughest schedules in the state.
All those top teams in 5A Region 8 have something in common. Sure, they all made playoff runs last season, but they also all run similar offenses that like to spread you out and get skill players the ball in space.
“If you look at the teams in our region — they are going to run some sort of spread,” said East Limestone head coach Jeff Pugh. “That’s who we have to beat to get into the playoffs. Our region is a spread region.”
While fans can still expect to see three yards and a cloud of dust from the Indians offense again this year, Pugh might incorporate more spread packages into his offense to fit his personnel.
“I’m probably one of the only old school coaches left, but you’ve got to go with the times,” said Pugh. “We ran some spread in the past. The thing is, if you are going to throw the ball, you can’t afford to drop the ball. We’ve got to work on that and protecting the quarterback.”
East began last season with three games against ranked opponents and dropped to 0-3. The Indians turned it around with a three-game winning streak to hit the .500 mark after a win at Athens.
Consecutive losses to Muscle Shoals and Hartselle knocked East out of playoff contention the following weeks and the Indians finished the year at 6A No. 3 Auburn.
2013 brings that same difficult schedule, but with many returning players that battled through last year.
Along with the return of key veterans along the offensive line, East Limestone will add several skill players not on the team last year that could make a difference this season.
“We need those skills guys, that have played basketball in the past,” said Pugh. “I don’t need them worrying about not being able to get their basketball practice time in the summer because of football. We have some skills that are going to help us out tremendously.”
Players like Whit Black, Devin Davis, Dilan Sayer and Jordon Gandy have joined the team after playing other sports at the school in previous years. Gandy in particular could make a major impact this season.
“We’re going to move him around everywhere,” said Pugh. “He’s a great guy to have on the field at safety or he can be a lockdown corner. He’s a 6-3 guy that can run. Everybody we play, they are going to have to find him. They are going to have to do something to try and take him away from us.”
East Limestone will travel to Sparkman for a jamboree game at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23, and kick off the season at Madison County Friday, Aug. 30.