High School Sports

Collegiate prospers with switch

Collegiate's football team needed to find a competitive advantage.

After losing to Conway Springs in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs last year, coach Bill Messamore realized it was time for a change. Knowing his team wouldn't have the size that other teams possess, he decided to install an offense that 3A teams hardly see.

It's an offensive set that involves as many as five wide receivers but no running backs. In this spread-option, the Spartans use motion, hoping to create mismatches with the opponent's coverage. So far, it has worked. The Spartans are 7-0 and averaging 44 points.

"It was our intention to be different," Messamore said. "We try our best to offset our competition's strengths with ours. A lot of the teams in our class run the ball and control the clock. Our offense is designed to score points in bunches. If we can get up early, that forces the teams who grind it out to have to play out of their style."

One of the biggest keys to the Collegiate offense is Tre Bailey, a 6-foot-6 slot receiver. Bailey, a senior, shared time at quarterback last year with Blake Jablonski, this year's starter. Though the offense was productive, it lacked the cohesiveness that it has now, Jablonski said.

"It wasn't as fun last year," he said. "You really can't get into a rhythm. There was a lot of pressure, because if you had a bad series the other guy would probably be coming in."

Having Bailey in the slot allows fellow receivers Brett LeMaster, Bryce Cornejo, and Brandon Searle to see one-on-one coverage.

However, the move wasn't easy for Bailey. Growing up, he always envisioned himself as a quarterback. He understood why Messamore made the switch, but it didn't help ease the pain.

"It hurt. I had to really think about it for a minute," Bailey said. "But it was the right decision. I'm like a guaranteed first down, I'll catch it from five yards out and I'll fall forward for another five."

The move also looks like it will help fulfill another dream of Bailey's — playing college football. While Bailey wasn't getting interest playing quarterback, several schools like him at receiver, Messamore said. Bailey has 30 receptions for 434 yards.

"I have a lot of respect for Tre for making the move," Jablonski said. "His unselfishness shows his dedication to the team."

Jablonski has also benefited greatly from the change. He is the state's leading passer, averaging 271.7 yards. He has completed 65 percent of his passes and has 24 touchdowns and 1,939 passing yards.

"It's not all me, any quarterback in the state would want the receiving corps that I have," Jablonski said. "We worked hard all summer getting our timing down. We all know our roles."

Collegiate can clinch a playoff spot today with a win over Bluestem.

Despite averaging a touchdown more this season, the true test of the offense comes in the playoffs. Collegiate has lost three straight first-round games.

"We want to get past the first round," Jablonski said. "We understand that we don't have the best competition in our league, so we have to prove ourselves and winning in the playoffs is the only way to do that."