By William Weathers
Special to The Advocate
October 13, 2012
When it came to defining the goals for Dutchtown offense this year, senior quarterback Mason Nickens said that unit took somewhat of a light-hearted approach.
“Our No. 1 goal was that we wanted to go up to our punter (Tyler Sarrazin) and tell him he wasn’t going to letter this year,” Nickens said. “I want to make a drive every time we got out there and aside from kickoffs, to keep the kicking game off the field as much as possible.”
While that objective hasn’t been totally realized, there are no complaints about an offense that had to replace eight starters — including Mr. Football Landon Collins — and has continued to operate at an optimum level.
The sixth-ranked Griffins (4-1, 1-0) take that unit averaging 36.2 points and 402 total yards on the road Friday in a key District 5-5A contest against rival East Ascension (3-3, 1-0) at 7 p.m.
“I heard that a lot from every opposite team,” Dutchtown senior running back Antoine Magras said of an anticipated offensive drop off this season. “They didn’t think we were going to be able to move the ball as efficient as we were last year. I think so far we’ve been able to show them that’s not the case.”
Three times this season Dutchtown has scored 40 or more points with a high of 49 coming in a 49-17 home victory over Sulphur in Week 2 — a game 10th year coach Benny Saia said best exemplified his team’s pursuit of weekly balance between the run and pass.
“That’s as close to a balanced attack as we’ve had,” said Saia, who is 77-32 at the school. “That’s why we went to this offense three years ago. Although we’re spread, we’re primarily a running football team. When we have everything working, you’ve got to cover the whole field.”
With so few returning starters the misnomer surrounding Dutchtown’s offense, especially the skill position players, was the Griffins would be a terribly inexperienced group. This year’s offense follows on a unit that averaged 35 points a game and had plenty of highlight-reel moments in 2011.
That was more of an accurate depiction of the team’s offensive line where four starters had to be replaced. But with two-year senior starter Brian Hernandez back at center, the Griffins had the foundation of a successful group in place and a leader to show the way.
“Dutchtown’s reputation is being physical, so when we get the chance, we’re going to line up and hit you in the mouth,” Hernandez said. “That’s what we’re going to do until we need to pass, and when we’ve had to pass, it’s been efficient so far. I think we’re good in both areas.”
Collins cast quite a shadow last season, averaging a staggering 13.7 yards per carry en route to totaling 1,128 yards and 21 touchdowns. However, Collins averaged just 8.1 carries per game, enabling less heralded running backs such as Magras, Torrance Mosley and Corey McBride opportunities to gain experience.
Nickens, a LSU-Eunice baseball commitment, also established his credentials as a viable run-pass option and is well on course to exceeding his 1,500-yard total offense production of a year ago. The 5-foot-11, 183-pounder is the team’s leading rusher with 46 carries for 421 yards and six TDs. He is completing 66 percent of his passes (36 of 55) for 549 yards and five TDs.
Mississippi State wide receiver commitment Shelby Christy (15-219, three TDs) leads what Saia calls his “best set of receivers I’ve had anywhere.” Along with Mosley (7-158, TD) are McBride (5-31) and Marquilis Holden (3-35, TD).
However, when it comes to its preferred method of travel, Dutchtown’s roots are firmly on the ground, and with an offensive line that’s made continual strides, the Griffins have been just as prolific.
Mosley (36-315, 4 TDs) and Magras (48-311, TD) have been a perfect complement to Nickens and the speedy McBride, who helped Dutchtown to a Class 5A state track title in the spring, still gives Dutchtown the element of the home run threat with six carries for 159 yards and three TDs — a per-carry average of 26.2 yards.
“Even though they weren’t always starters, we have guys that have been running the spread as long as I have,” Nickens said. “They know the offense. We still have not reached a peak of what we can do. We still want to take it to a whole new level.”