Two games deep into the playoffs and the Clinton-Massie football team is back to its old ways of being a dominant running team.
Not that the run game ever left Dan McSurley’s play list, but certainly 112 rushing attempts in two games is quite a lot. In fairness, it’s hard to justify keeping the ball out of Davey Tunon’s hands when he’s set the school single game rushing record in back-to-back weeks and gained 764 yards.
“I’ve run the ball in the past when I didn’t have a quarterback who could hit the ocean from the beach or I’ve had receivers who couldn’t catch,” said McSurley.
But the 2015 Clinton-Massie football team has been a little different than most on Lebanon Road. It’s been a number of years since the Falcons threw the football with any success or frequency. Probably have to go back to the days of Tyler Sargent in the early to mid 2000s when Massie was a threat offensively if the ball ever went over a lineman’s head.
Hunter Fentress, a first team All-Southwest District selection at quarterback, gives the Falcons a legitimate passing attack. The 6-2 signal caller is more than the go-between to get the ball from the center to the hands of Davey Tunon.
“The thing that makes us different, is that in the past if we get third and long, we’re in trouble,” said McSurley. “A lot of times, we’ll just suck it up, run 31-trap and punt.
“This year, second and long or third and long, we have the ability to utilize Hunter and throw the ball down field. If we’re behind the chains, we can make that up.”
Fentress was 86-for-126 passing during the regular season for 1,525 yards and 17 touchdowns. He threw just two interceptions.
And lest you think Fentress was a statuesque thrower who stood in the pocket when he wasn’t handing off, he averaged more than 9 yards a rush and scored 7 touchdowns on his own.
“I’m just here to play my role,” said Fentress, a senior who started at QB on the 2013 state championship team. “If it’s handing off to people like Davey Tunon, who’s breaking the school record, or passing the ball, it doesn’t matter. I’m just here to do my job.
“If I don’t do anything and we still win, I’d be OK with that. I’m not here for personal stats or anything.”
Fentress is 9-for-16 passing the first two playoffs games for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
“Hunter’s been in this offense now since he’s been in the third grade,” said the CM coach. “We have some talented receivers (Bryce Boyd, Tommy Williams, Luke Richardson, Trey Uetrecht). We have receivers who have the ability to catch the ball. Hunter is a very accurate passer.
“What’s different about Hunter is that a lot of quarterbacks just rocket it (the ball). They have a strong arm but if you can’t catch because you’re throwing it so hard, it’s no good. Hunter has touch on his passes.”
The offensive line — in the same manner it helped Tunon set the school rush record — has been instrumental in keeping Fentress upright this season. He’s been sacked just a couple times the entire season.
“Our offensive line is amazing,” Fentress said. “They’ve done a really good job of keeping me protected. They’re taking pride in what they’re doing and they’re doing a really good job at it, too.”
Jake Garrison, Wyatt Jefferson, JP Cantrell, Isaac Green and Ryan Weiss have been the starters along the line the last two weeks. Receivers and backs Uetrecht, Tunon, Brad Hunt, Jaycob Wolf, Cole O’Bryon and Weston Trampler also have helped keep opposing defenses away from Fentress.
“We take pride as a unit that Hunter is like (one of our parents),” said Cantrell. ”We don’t want (Hunter) to get hit. Somebody hits (Hunter), it makes us mad.”
Boyd led the Falcons with 25 receptions for 424 yards and 6 touchdowns during the regular season. Williams was next at 28-464-5. Richardson, Tunon and Uetrecht also have been options in the passing game as Fentress spreads the ball around.
“We’ve challenged our kids in the summers at big time 7 on 7s,” McSurley said of the passing game. “We finished in the finals of the state in 7 on 7s two years consecutively. It’s a lot of fun (throwing the football). The kids like to throw the ball and I’m enjoying it. What the heck, that’s what it’s all about.
“And it opens up the run, gives us some big lanes. It keeps the safety back and keeps the linebackers who have to think twice about coming up and plugging (the line) so it helps us in all aspects of the game.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports.