Friday, September 4, 2009

{new look for the rebels}

South Albany reached the second round of the 5A state playoffs in 2008, but coach Tony Matta has resisted the temptation to keep doing things the same way.
The second-year head coach is changing the Rebels' basic scheme on both sides of the ball, hoping to maximize the talent on the squad.
The Rebels are switching from a double-wing attack on offense to the I-formation. And on defense, the team is going from three down linemen and five linebackers to a more balanced four linemen, four linebackers system.
South Albany built an identity over the past several seasons as a strong running team as the Rebels improved from 3-7 in 2006 to 5-5 in 2007 and then went 8-4 in 2008.
Running backs Jesse Duke and Greg Hoover combined to run for over 2,300 yards last season. Both are now departed and Matta thinks a change in attack is the best way to replace that productivity.
Junior Bryce Stutzman, who was effective last season as one of the wing backs, is moving to the tailback slot in the new formation.
"He's an I-back kind of kid. He gets downhill quick, he's fast and he makes good decisions," Matta said.
Stutzman will run behind his brother, senior fullback Lane Stutzman, who will move to tailback on occasion to give his sibling a rest.
The key to the attack is an offensive line that Matta believes has been underrated for the past couple of seasons. The Rebels will have four seniors starting on the line, Jake Atkins, Steven Gonzalez, T.J. Chapman and Bond Sumey.
"In the last couple of years, we haven't gotten a lot of recognition, but I've felt our offensive line has been as good as anybody's," Matta said. "Our success comes from the guys up front."
Sumey will miss the first couple of games of the season as he heals from a broken foot he suffered this summer. He is expected to return before league play begins and the health of the 6-foot-6 right tackle is key for the Rebels.
At quarterback, senior Josh Heckman will start. Last year's starter, Zac Hunter, is moving to wideout and will continue to be a key starter on defense.
Matta said Hunter was a good fit at quarterback in the double wing, but Heckman is a more traditional pocket passer suited for the I-formation. The coach praised Hunter's team-first attitude and noted that Hunter suggested the switch this spring.
On defense, Matta thinks his team is talented enough on the defensive line to be able to generate pressure on the quarterback with a four-man front. In the past, the Rebels had to bring extra pressure from all over the field, but the coach thinks this unit will be able to get into the backfield, allowing the rest of the team to stay in position.
Linebacker Brandon Campo is moving from defensive end to inside linebacker and Matta expects him to have a big season. Campo was named the outstanding linebacker at the Western Oregon University team camp the Rebels attended this summer.
One of the reasons for the program's improvement is that South Albany football is a lot bigger than it used to be, in a couple of respects. In the final years of the old Valley League there were about 75 players in the entire program. This year there are 110.
And those players are getting bigger. Matta said the weight room has been a huge benefit to all of the teams at South Albany.
"I don't think you can measure it. We have kids, it's just amazing how strong they are," Matta said. "They know when they step out on the field, the court or the mat, that they will be physically as strong as the guy across from them."
- albany democrat herald

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