As summer break comes to an end, a new swarm of Mineral County High School boys strode out onto the football field to prepare for the upcoming season.
This year, the Serpents are under new leadership. Curt “Coach Mack” McElroy, the new head coach, said he’s got a few new tricks up his sleeve, especially on offense.
“I brought this offense in,” McElroy said. “It’s a combination of [the University of] Nevada, Reno’s pistol offense and Urban Meyer’s shotgun option offense. Very complicated.”
The pistol offense is a formation popularized and refined by former UNR head football coach Chris Ault. In the pistol formation, the quarterback lines up four yards behind the center. Ault’s piston formation relies on a quarterback who’s quick on his feet and willing to run.
“I like the downhill,” McElroy said. “We get a lot of the power game out of it, […] and it’s harder to read compared to the offset back, because you know he’s only going one way.”
Pistol formations allow some passing, but are primarily used for running.
In the shotgun formation the quarterback lines up further back (usually between five and seven yards from the center) to take the snap. The “option” McElroy referred to is the choice the quarterback has to pass the ball or hand it off to a runner.
In both formations, offenses hope to spread out and wear down the defense so it can make big plays.
McElroy said the boys love learning the new plays and are learning quickly.
“They’re enjoying it,” he said. “It’s a new thing. So, it’s going real well right now. I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.”
McElroy said he hopes to keep opposing defenses on their heels.
“We’re option football,” McElroy said. “We will air the ball out. We like moving the chains, just like Nevada, Reno did.”
Similar to Colin Kaepernick, a UNR alumni who was drafted in the second round by the San Francisco 49ers two years ago, this year’s Serpent’s quarterback has what McElroy called “decepti-speed.”
Foot speed is necessary for everyone on the offense, McElroy said.
McElroy also said his offensive line is one of the largest he’s seen in the division.
The biggest challenge McElroy said his team is has isn’t learning the complex playbook, but rather the fundamentals.
“There’s a lot of footwork in this offense,” McElroy said. “It’s a pretty easy offense to understand—I mean we zone block everything (unless we’re running powers and counters). We need to work on the foot speed and the foot quickness. That’s pretty much what we’re working on right now.”
McElroy will call plays from the sidelines and the team will run a no-huddle offense to try and keep the pressure up, he said.
On the other side of the football, McElroy said the team will play a varied style. It will primarily use a 3-3, but when the quarterback is under center, it will run a variation of the Bears defense.
“We do a lot of motions and shifts, both offensively and defensively, to make these other teams adjust to us,” McElroy said. “And as soon as I see what they’re doing to adjust to us, we’re coming back with something else.”
The Serpents will open the season on the road on Aug. 30 in Lone Pine, Calif.
“They’re a pretty good football team,” McElroy said. “They’re one of the best in eight-man in California.”
McElroy said California teams always field large teams with a good work ethic, but his confidence isn’t shaken.
“I think our kids, pound for pound, number for number, we’ll be right there with the rest of them in the state,” He said.
The Serpent’s biggest advantage will be its camaraderie.
“They treat each other like family,” McElroy said. “One of the things I always tell them is ‘We’re a band of brothers. We’re family.’ Everybody here on this team is important to everybody on this team.”