Cheney has a new quarterback this season, and he better know how to run.
Running is, after all, the dominant trait for the Cardinals’ offense, a custom based upon coach Cory Brack’s multi-formation offense and upon Cheney’s strengths.
New quarterback Austin Wheelock supplants graduated Tyler Amsink, who passed 69 times last season and rushed 126; the overall ratio for Cheney was 400 rushes, 73 passes.
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Last season’s leading rusher, Tyler Trego, returns to guide a backfield that includes fellow returners Isaiah Grover and Wade McGuffey.
“That’s a great problem to have for us,” Brack said. “They’re all pretty dangerous in their own aspects. If the defense keys on one guy, we have two other guys who can get the tough yards for us. That’s the real benefit is that they can’t focus on one guy because we have a couple other guys there to take the load.”
Cheney averaged 6.1 yards per carry in 2013 and 29 of its 33 touchdowns came on the ground, along with 87 percent of its offense. It’s difficult to call the Cardinals one-dimensional, though, because each player offers a different style and Brack has formations that play to each running back’s strengths.
Cheney’s passing game, however limited, is also designed to involve running backs. Trego and Grover combined for 16 of the Cardinals’ 24 receptions last season.
“We move to the full-house T (formation), the flexbone so we can get those guys touches,” Brack said. “It’s kind of the hot hand, and if the defense is designed to stop a certain player, we go with the other guys until we can set something up.”
If acclimating Grover and McGuffey, last season’s third and fourth options, into more prominent roles takes time, Cheney may be ahead of the curve elsewhere with 14 returning starters and experienced backups.
The Cardinals have a strong group of returning defensive backs, perhaps an irony since those players don’t get much action in practice.
“It’s tough going against our offensive scheme every day,” Brack said. “We’re not very deep this year, and that’s going to be a problem, and (the running game) will help us down the stretch with ball control and keeping it away from the other guys.”
A LOOK AT CHENEY
Coach: Cory Brack, third season, 10-10
League: Central Plains
Last season: 5-4
Last five seasons: 22-23
Projected 2014 playoff team? Yes
TOP SKILL PLAYERS
|Belle Plaine||W, 43-0|
|Trinity Academy||L, 7-0|
|Conway Springs||L, 35-6|
|Garden Plain||W, 27-18|
|Sept. 5||Garden Plain|
|Sept. 12||at Douglass|
|Sept. 26||at Bluestem|
|Oct. 3||Trinity Academy|
|Oct. 10||at Hutchinson Trinity|
|Oct. 17||at Conway Springs|
|Oct. 30||at Belle Plaine|
Tyler Trego on his team
What Cheney does well: “What I like about our team is we all get along. We have really good bonds and we all play really good together.”
What has to improve: “The main thing we need to focus on is getting stronger. We’ve had a lot more dedication to football this year, been a lot more focused. We have a lot of young guys coming in, and I think our biggest (issue) is getting those guys not so nervous on the varsity field.”