For Top Dallas Area Soccer Teams, Offensive Fluidity Brings Success


There hasn’t been any major change in Denton Guyer’s offense this season, head coach Rodney Webb said. Sure, the numbers may say differently at the surface level, but that’s iconic of the scheme.

Something that isn’t broken doesn’t need to be fixed, as the story goes. But sometimes, something that is successful is designed to be tweaked.

“I think with any great offensive philosophy,” said Webb. “You have the opportunity, from year to year, to build on different aspects of the offense without having to change the entire offense. “

In 2020, 65% of Guyer’s offensive plays were runs, and 3,662 of his 6,294 (nearly 60%) total yards came on the ground. This is what has worked best for Webb and co. last season. Quarterback Eli Stowers, now at Texas A&M, was a real double threat in the quarterback and rushed for 1,078 yards and 18 touchdowns. Byron Phillips, then a junior, had 1,263 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Only 2,632 of Guyer’s yards were thrown in the air in 2020, and only 35% of his plays were passing. Stowers’ best skill were his legs. Guyer’s main wide receivers were all juniors or younger. He also had an offensive line with two Division I recruits behind.

Guyer averaged 40.79 points per game and advanced to the state semi-finals. The heavy racing system worked had worked.

This season is different.

Almost 64% of Guyer’s total offensive yards went through the air in 2021. He ran for almost 1,600 yards less and chose to rush the ball just 56% of the time, down 9% from Last year.

Guyer (13-1) is averaging 37.5 points per game and, once again, will play in the 6A-II state semi-final on Friday against Tomball (11-3). A more balanced offensive approach – with an increased emphasis on passing the ball – also works.

“The productivity has been very similar in terms of yards and points,” said Webb. “But how we got there is very different.”

The other five Dallas-area teams that will play for a state championship trip this weekend are in similar positions.

Duncanville High School running back Malachi Medlock (5) tries to stiffen the arm of DeSoto High School linebacker Chrisjen Williams (33) during the first half as DeSoto High School played at Duncanville High School in the Class 6A Division I Region II final playoff game at the Ford Center in Frisco on Saturday, December 4, 2021 (Stewart F. House / Special Contributor)(Stewart F. House / Special Contributor)

Duncanville (12-1), who will face Southlake Carroll (14-0) on Saturday in the 6A-I State Semifinals, is nearly 1,400 yards short this season than before (2,727 yards versus 1,369 ) but rushed for almost 1,200 extra yards (2,472 to 3,638). Carroll has run for 3,447 yards this season – the most yards since 2013 – but is more than 900 yards short than last year.

Mansfield Summit (11-3), playing his second straight 5A-I semi-final Friday against College Station (14-0), has 182.8 yards per game this season. That average climbed to 248.7 in 2021. South Oak Cliff (13-1) will face Lubbock-Cooper (13-1) in the 5A-II State semi-finals on Friday and will bring a revamped air attack that averages out almost 100 more passing yards per game this season compared to last. Celina (12-1), who will face Gilmer (13-1) in the 4A-II state semifinals on Friday, took the opposite approach: she rushed for, on average, 242.54 yards per game this season against 148.91 last year.

So what is behind the changes? A sudden change in philosophy? A brand new playbook, with last year in a trash somewhere?

It’s really not that drastic, the coaches of these teams will say. It’s a sign that the teams that rise to the top, year after year, know how to work with what they have.

“It’s kind of how we’ve developed our personality as an attacker this year,” Celina coach Bill Elliot said. “I’ve always insisted to our coaches, ‘We have to do what we do best.’ If we’re going to throw the ball and we have the receivers who can go and get it and a quarterback who can, then let’s do it. We will do what is best for our people.

Celina's Gabe Gayton (11) goes up the pitch in the second half of a final Class 4A, Division II, Region I high school playoff <a class=football game between Aubrey and Celina on Friday, December 3, 2021, in Denton, in Texas. Célina won 34-0. (Matt Strasen / Special Contributor)” src=”×0/smart/filters:no_upscale()/” class=”dmnc_images-img-module__1-ZBN max-w-full text-white object-contain dmnc_images-img-module__2c3Vz”/>
Celina’s Gabe Gayton (11) goes up the pitch in the second half of a final Class 4A, Division II, Region I high school playoff football game between Aubrey and Celina on Friday, December 3, 2021, in Denton, in Texas. Célina won 34-0. (Matt Strasen / Special Contributor)(Matt Strasen / Special Contributor)

Celina averaged 218.55 passing yards per game last season. He had known wide receivers, a young offensive line and a quarterback in former junior Noah Bentley (20 touchdowns for two interceptions) that could launch him.

But Celina has returned four starting offensive linemen this season, as well as running back Gabe Gayton, now a junior with 1,512 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. Bentley (2,005 yards, 33 TDs) has always proven to be a key part of the offense, but as Elliot and his team assessed the team – and what the team could do better to – that made sense.

Throw the ball.

“It’s kind of the growth of our offense and its maturity,” Elliot said.

Guyer and South Oak Cliff moved in the opposite direction. Like Elliot and Celina, it came down to the staff.

Jackson Arnold, a four-star junior rookie, has proven to Webb and his team that he deserves to be built around him. The numbers (3,601 passing yards and 30 touchdowns) have since confirmed it.

“From the start to the middle of the year, there have been things that have gone well for us in games that we weren’t expecting,” said Webb. “We haven’t been a return team for a number of years … probably around the middle of the season we started to realize that we were a very good concept-based comeback team.”

Likewise at South Oak Cliff, where senior Kevin Henry-Jennings (2,649 passing yards, 34 touchdowns and two interceptions) forced coach Jason Todd to call more passing plays. South Oak Cliff only passed the ball 33 percent of the time last season. This number rose to 41% in 2021.

“It was really staff-based,” Todd said. “But the staff were in place last year. The most important thing was, because of COVID, we couldn’t build a lot of chemistry. We had young people.

A change in offensive focus, of course, can lead to a change in roles.

“Our kids understand, how it’s going to fall this year, you might not be the star,” Webb said. “You can’t lead us to receive rushing every game… a lot of guys can come in this season thinking they’re going to be the guy, or last year they got X carries or X amount of yards.

“That doesn’t mean what’s best for us the next year.”

Guyer has a chance of qualifying for the state title game for the first time since 2019. South Oak Cliff is in the running for their very first trip to the title game. Southlake Carroll and Celina (eight Crown titles each) are looking to add to their trophy collections.

To reach these heights, the teams have proven it, change is not always a bad thing.

Offensive differences

Team 2020 2021
Duncanville 2,472 rushing yards 3,638 rushing yards
Southlake Carroll 2,791 rushing yards 3,447 rushing yards
Denton Guyer 2,632 passing yards 3,665 passing yards
Mansfield Summit 2,376 rushing yards 3,403 rushing yards
South Oak Cliff 123.9 passing yards per game 229.54 passing yards per game
Celina 148.91 rushing yards per game 242.54 rushing yards per game
Duncanville wide receiver Zeriah Beason (4) passes Southlake Carroll defensive back Dylan Thomas (2) during the second half of a Class 6A, Division I, Region I high school football game between Southlake Carroll and Duncanville on Saturday December 7, 2019 at McKinney ISD Stadium in McKinney, Texas.  (Ryan Michalesko / The Dallas Morning News)

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