East Mills gets physical in homecoming victory
With its top two quarterbacks out with injuries, East Mills reverted to its past in Friday’s homecoming match up with Griswold in Malvern Friday.
The Wolverines and head coach Kevin Schafer went to their little used, run oriented “T” offense – with two running backs flanking the quarterback in the backfield on every snap – and had its most productive day running the ball in nearly a decade in a 58-20 win over the Tigers in Eight-player, District 10 football.
“We hadn’t run that (offense) since Josh Hopkins was our running back in the fall of 2015,” Schafer said. “We ran it back in the day because we had a quarterback that could be a blocker. If you have a quarterback who can do that and be a power runner inside, it works pretty well.”
ackson Embree did pretty well in the role he assumed just this week following the injuries to the Wolverines’ top two quarterbacks, Zach Thornburg and Caleb Urban. Embree put all his running back skills to use in Schafer’s makeshift offense.
“We knew if we had to pass like we had been, 20 plus times, we wouldn’t have a chance,” Schafer said. “We also saw Stanton had success running at them from an I formation. I just didn’t feel like having an inexperienced quarterback taking snaps under center was the best, so we went to the shotgun, and it was a pretty easy way for him to handoff or keep it for himself. We really treated him more as a running back who could run or block.”
The Wolverines finished with 398 yards on the ground and 79 through the air.
From the opening snap, Schafer seemed determined to set the tone with the ground game. East Mills ran the ball 12 of their first 15 snaps and jumped out to a 20-0 lead after the opening quarter. The lead swelled to 42-0 at the half.
“We told our tight ends they were going from them being guys that most went out for passes to mainly blockers,” Schafer said. “I think we only threw five times the whole game. It was a decision we made early in the week. Will it be successful against teams like Exira-EHK and
Woodbine, we’ll see but we felt this was our best way to beat Griswold.”
Embree finished 2-of-4 passing for 79 yards and a touchdown. He added two touchdowns rushing. Running backs Sheldon Vandenberg and Jack Gordon both notched 100-yard rushing games. Vandenburg carried six times for 134 yards and a touchdown and Gordon carried nine times for 117 yards and two TDs.
The Wolverine defense held the Tigers scoreless for three quarters while forcing four turnovers. Vandenberg returned one of their three interceptions 59 yards for a touchdown and also stripped another Tiger player of the ball and a potential touchdown on a fumble recovery.
“They were going in for a touchdown and he ripped the ball loose before they go in the endzone,” Schafer said. “That was a big play. I was pleased with our defense. We’re still giving up too many yards rushing, but we didn’t break until we put our JV defense in. All 20 of their points were against our JV. We were pleased with our defense. It was probably the best we’ve played this year.”
With the big lead, Schafer was able to use his junior varsity – which saw their season cancelled due to the Wolverines’ injury issue – for the entire fourth quarter.
“We ran the same offense with our JV kids late in the game and they put up some pretty good yards too,” he said. “It made me happy we were able to get those kids some time because we don’t have a JV season so sometimes those fourth quarters become their JV game. It was good we got a good enough lead that some of those kids that didn’t get a JV season got some snaps in there. That was really good for them.”
East Mills heads on the road to face Exira-EHK (3-3) next week in Exira. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.