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Football: Rigby’s offense is ‘firing on all cylinders’

By LUKE O’ROARK | Post Register | Loroark@postregister.com
RIGBY — You may have to be multilingual to decipher, and beat, Rigby’s offense.

But after three weeks, very few teams have had much luck.

(FILE) Rigby running back Braden Youngstrom runs the ball for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Blackfoot Broncos on Friday night at Rigby High School. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)

During Wednesday’s practice, Rigby head coach Armando Gonzalez zips around the field, spurting code and language probably unfamiliar to the average audience.

“Yeah, Zelda!” Gonzalez says to one of his offensive lineman, who asks about their blocking assignment on one of the Trojans’ screen plays.

Naturally, code in football isn’t anything new. Every team — Idaho Falls, Madison, West Jefferson, the Denver Broncos, your local grid team — utilizes code words for play calling and audibles.

The difference, though, is that Rigby’s code has led to some ridiculous scores and statistics during the early component of the 2017 season.

“I think the tempo has helped us,” Gonzalez said. “And this senior class has a phenomenal group of skill players. And the line, as I’ve said early on in the year, has come along. That’s what made it go, really. We knew we had the skill players, it was getting the line to produce.”

The Trojans (3-0) have averaged 47 points to open their season, including a 58-40 shootout with Kuna last Friday.

Of the four District 6 5A schools, Rigby’s quarterback, running back and top receiver leads the district in yardage in their respected positions, according to data the Post Register has accumulated over the previous three weeks.

Data accumulated has been from games the Post Register has personally staffed or from box scores received from other media outlets and coaches around the region.

According to the statistics, quarterback Tanner Clayton leads 5A schools within District 6 with 765 passing yards and 11 touchdowns throws (Hillcrest’s Dalton Clark is second with 676 yards; Clark and Madison’s Jordan Porter are second with seven touchdown throws).

Running back Braden Youngstrom — who sliced his left hand open during last week’s win over Kuna — has 628 yards on 75 carries (Bonneville’s Austin Ford is second with 406 rushing yards). Youngstrom is paced to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards by the end of the season, if playoffs are included (he averages 209 rushing yards per game).

“This offense is very serious,” Youngstrom said. “(Gonzalez) is a great coach. He knows how to open up the field for all of us players can get something done and, like you said, it’s fast tempo and it makes the other team either slower or tired.”

Finally, receiver Austin Good leads District 6 5A with 221 receiving yards and 18 receptions. The next closest is teammate Ben Fullmer at 208, as Hillcrest’s Derek Marlowe (204), Madison’s Coy Backstein (180) and Bonneville’s Gerohm Rihari (177) round out the top-5.

“We’re going a lot faster, so once everybody executes at their job it’s a lot harder for defenses to adjust and set up their formations,” Good said Wednesday, as Gonzalez’s voice echoed in the background.

Gonzalez said confidence is one of the factors in Rigby’s fast-paced start. Defenses have also struggled to acclimate to Gonzalez’s up-tempo offense, he added (“I told the kids when I first took the program over we were going to be a fast-paced offense, and I wasn’t just saying it to say it,” Gonzalez said).

The change offensively has come almost seamlessly from a year ago, defensive line coach Norm Taylor said. The Trojans only scored 188 points in 10 games a season ago.

In 2017, they’ve scored 142 in three games.

“In football, these kids learn a language. Now, they learn a new language,” said Taylor after Wednesday’s practice.So, it’s kind of like speaking Japanese to learning to now we’re speaking German.”

Taylor said Gonzalez’s West-Coast style system has impressed him, especially since 2017 is Gonzalez first season as head coach.

“As a defensive guy, I love (the offensive production),” Taylor said. “We struggled to score points the last few years a little bit. We’ve always been a somewhat sound defensive team … but we might of underestimated these kids a little bit. We throw a lot at them.”

But Rigby’s offense may not be perfect come Friday night against Minico (2-1).

Gonzalez said the Trojans’ backfield is dealing with injuries, including Youngstrom, who will get his left hand evaluated next Tuesday. His sophomore brother, Brigham, is predicted to get some carries.

Trey McKinlay could see an increase in offensive production with senior Bradley Hahn handling a shoulder injury, Gonzalez said.

Other notable injuries include Good, who practiced with shin splints Wednesday, and Fullmer, who came up to Gonzalez expressing pain in his left collarbone region. Gonzalez said Fullmer has broken his collarbone previously.

Linebacker Braden Erickson will not play Friday due to a concussion.

“It takes some time to trust the system a little bit, and then we’ve had a couple of injuries last week, and we were shuffling guys around like a deck of cards,” Gonzalez said. “I just think we’ve got to eliminate big plays defensively.”

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