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...
When Jon Gettman roamed the field as quarterback at Cascade Christian, the Challengers embraced the run-first double-wing offense.
When he was an assistant under former Challenger head coach Andy Maurer, the squad still ran the double wing.
When Gettman took over the reins in 2010, he used the double wing.
That is, until this season.
Cascade Christian did a 180-degree turn by installing a no-huddle spread offense. The program had been successful with the double wing, but Gettman felt the time for change had dawned. He was fascinated by nearby Southern Oregon University's explosive brand, and the Raiders' staff proved more than willing to share. Moreover, his group of players seemed perfect for the system.
Kinks had to be ironed out as the club departed from its long-standing offensive tradition — Santiam Christian thumped the Challengers, 21-0, in their season opener — but Cascade Christian got better.
Since the loss, the Challengers (9-2) have averaged 40.4 points per game while passing early and often (nearly twice as much as they did last season). They've done this in the wake of the Brandon Williams era, when Williams destroyed every major career and season rushing record at the school before graduating last year.
Cascade Christian next hosts Rainier (7-3) in a Class 3A state quarterfinal contest at 1 p.m. Saturday at U.S. Cellular Community Park.
The statistics say a lot: In 2012, the Challengers ran the ball 423 times for 3,908 yards (325.7 yards per game) and completed 75 of their 139 passes for 1,165 yards (97.1 per game). This fall, they have carried it 317 times for 1,570 yards (142.7 per game) and completed 174 of their 273 passing attempts for 2,024 yards (158.3 per game).
In a word, the visual differences between this squad and previous teams is striking.
Gettman graduated from Cascade Christian in 2003 and SOU in 2008. He was an assistant coach for the Challengers for six years before replacing Maurer in 2010.
Gettman, whose squad attends the SOU football camp every June, met at least six times with the Raider coaching staff from January through May. He watched film with SOU offensive coordinator Ken Fasnacht and took home piles of notes.
"I can't thank them enough," Gettman says.
The first meeting was perhaps most significant.
"We went down and talked to coach (Fasnacht) and the O-line coach (Chris Fisk) and asked them questions about what they see pre-snap and what their reads are," Gettman says. "(Fasnacht) kind of stopped me and said, 'Let me just share my philosophy on offense.' It just made sense. After meeting with him I said, 'Let's do it.' The one thing I've learned as far as being a coach is you have to go full force into changes."
Fasnacht says he admired Gettman's determination as he installed the system.
"It was such a drastic change for them," Fasnacht says, "but the more he saw it, the more he saw how it would work for them. ... He obviously had an understanding of where he wanted to go with it and he stuck with it."
Cascade Christian's offense isn't nearly as sophisticated as SOU's, Gettman says, nor is it as gutsy as the version head coach Craig Howard wields with his bag of trick plays. But Gettman says his personnel runs a modified version well and that his group continues to learn.
"I'm not nearly as creative as coach Howard," says Gettman. "They are on another level."
Howard said he and his staff have also shared their offense with Crater, Grants Pass, Westview and several schools in California.
"If our local high schools want to listen and learn and do what we do, we certainly want to help them," Howard says. "We want to see them do well, and if they want any of our secret sauce, we'll share."
Senior starting quarterback Seth Knox has passed for 1,440 yards and 20 touchdowns and carried the ball 41 times for 118 yards and six TDs.
He has a large brigade of aerial options, including receivers Cody Parker (50 catches, 477 yards, five touchdowns), Cooper Clark (37 catches, 423 yards, seven touchdowns), Dalton Palmer (14 catches, 263 yards, four touchdowns) and Tanner Parker (14 catches, 177 yards, two touchdowns). In a 47-27 triumph over Gold Beach on Sept. 27, Knox found seven different receivers.
On the ground, senior Cody Parker leads the team with 75 carries, 588 yards and eight TDs and Jake Brown has 440 rushing yards and five scores on 83 carries.
"We are pretty fast like the (Oregon) Ducks," says Knox, who was the starting junior varsity quarterback for two years before playing the role of backup signal caller and receiver last fall. "We don't huddle anymore. We get signals from the sideline and I just tell the linemen the play and we keep going. Right when the play is dead, we look at the signal and we are trying to get another play off every 15 or 20 seconds."
The team, which was the 2012 state runner-up, has come a long way since its loss to Santiam Christian on Aug. 30. It has since won nine out of 10 games, including a 56-7 victory over Pleasant Hill in the first round of the playoffs last Friday.
"That first game was pretty humbling," Gettman says. "We were terrible offensively, flat-out terrible. ... We had a general idea of what we needed to do, but you kind of need to get out on the field and experience it. Our footwork needed to be corrected and our execution wasn't there."
Alas, will the Challengers ever return to the old one?
"It is something I would go back to," Gettman says. "I just think with the kids we have, we had the athletes to run the system. It was the right time."
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email email@example.com. Find him online at facebook.com/danjonesmt or twitter.com/dljcards