Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
EAGLE POINT — For a guy who has a new football team in addition to a new baby boy to worry about, Seth Womack seems remarkably at ease, if not well rested.
Two months after relocating his growing family from Missouri to take over as Eagle Point's new head football coach, Womack can rattle off names, heights and weights, strengths and weaknesses like a man who's been drilling the same group of kids through daily doubles for the last four or five years, not merely a few weeks.
And not only does he know who the Eagles are, Womack believes he understands what they can do as well when their 2013 season kicks off Friday at Mazama.
"We've got a pretty good O-line that can block pretty well, so we feel pretty confident in our running game," said Womack, whose wife gave birth to their first child less than four weeks ago. "But we've got some great receivers as well, so we're going to try to spread the ball out to them, kind of keep it balanced as much as possible."
Womack, who at 34 already has high school, college and even some professional coaching experience in Germany under his belt, says the Eagles will run their offense out of the I-formation and their defense out of a 3-4.
Though he wants Eagle Point to have a balanced attack and believes it has the players to make that happen, Womack says senior quarterback Jorge Quintero, one of nine returning starters on offense, will lead a potentially deadly passing attack. That's because Quintero will be surrounded by tall, athletic playmakers: tight ends Peyton Dole (6-4, 210 pounds), Bryson Baker (6-5, 210), receivers Carlos Flores (6-0, 220) and Lucas Morris (6-1, 190), and running back Seth Arena (5-9, 155).
The plan is for the Eagles will do whatever's necessary to take advantage of all that athleticism, probably by using both Dole and Baker at the same time and spreading the field. The key may be Quintero, who's small for a quarterback (5-8, 150) but has good chemistry with the receivers thanks in part to a summer stuffed with seven-on-seven work. The backup, junior Ra'eed Sowell (6-0, 160) may also see playing time.
"It's (Quintero's) job to lose and he's been playing pretty well so far and he's managing it well," Womack said. "And he's coaching the kids, too, which is what you always want to see out of your quarterback. Jorge is the kind of kid that every coach wants to have. He would run through a wall if you ask him to, even if he knows he may not be able to make it all the way through the wall."
Last season, Quintero completed 50 percent of his passes for 757 yards and nine touchdowns. Flores was his top target, catching 18 passes for 279 yards and four TDs. Arena averaged a whopping 8.5 yards per carry while rushing for 423 yards and five scores.
"I see our passing game as more of a strength than it's been in the past," Dole said. "I think we're probably going to be throwing more underneath stuff and try to get the ball in our receivers' hands that can get some yards after the catch. And we've got some pretty good running backs, so I think once we get our passing game going we'll be able to run the ball pretty well."
While Arena is expected to get the majority of the carries, Womack hinted that he may employ a running back-by-committee approach in order to keep the legs fresh. That means seniors Sean McKenzie (5-10, 190) and Donald Everett (6-0, 175) may also occasionally be called upon to lead Eagle Point's ground attack.
Whoever does the running for EP, they'll be doing so behind an offensive line that in practice appears to be better at opening up holes for running backs than protecting quarterbacks. The returning starters up front are left tackle Austin Holmes (6-4, 225) and right tackle Rick Pedersen (5-10, 200).
"We're not where we need to be on our pass protections," Womack said.
And what if that doesn't change?
"We may have to roll (Quintero) out a little bit," Womack said, "but that's the thing about Jorge — he's a great athlete. Jorge is very capable of doing what we need to do to get the ball thrown."
Defensively, the Eagles return seven starters and will typically send four pass-rushers to disrupt the opposing quarterback. Holmes will be one of the ends and junior Blaine Cloney and senior Bryson Baker are the top candidates to share time on the other side, while freshman Nevin Wynn and senior James Bowers (6-1, 215) are battling for playing time at nose guard.
The linebackers — Dole, McKenzie, Pedersen and junior Kyle Hale (5-11, 165) — will take turns getting in on that pass-rush.
"In a 3-4, you have to (blitz) unless you have three monsters up front," Womack said. "We have three really good ones, but we're going to have to bring a fourth one almost every time, which we will. I think we can put pressure on with four guys, I really do."
The Eagles finished 5-5 overall and 3-4 in the Midwestern League in what turned out to be Jacob Schauffler's final season at the helm. Schauffler posted a 21-28 record in five seasons at Eagle Point, but his teams barely missed out on the playoffs in each of the past four seasons.
According to Morris, Womack has already ushered in a shift in culture.
"Just everything," he said, when asked what has changed since the new coaching staff took over, "from the way we warm up to the way we take things, our attitudes. We're a little more serious, but we still have a lot of fun."
Will that translate into a winning season in the always-tough Midwestern? One step at a time, says Womack.
"I don't care who we're playing, the goal's the same and the process of getting to that game never changes," he said. "Whether you're playing a 9-0 team or an 0-9 team you've still got to go in it like it's the state championship game."