Editor's note: As spring football practice ends, focus turns to the fall. Last week we looked at Crestview High School’s football team and how the Bulldogs shape up heading into summer workouts.
Today we start a two-part series with Baker School football coach Matt Brunson and learn how he breaks down the Gator offense.
We will break down the Gator defense in Saturday’s edition.
BAKER — As Matt Brunson enters his third year helming Baker School football, the Gators are coming off back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in almost a decade.
However, they are still looking for their first playoff berth since 2008.
Will Baker break the four-year drought and make it back to the post season in 2013?
The Gators capped the spring with a 32-22 win over Chipley High School. Brunson likes what he saw from the team, but he's already thinking about the Aug. 30 season opener.
"I thought we had a good spring," he said. "We went about three and a half weeks there and I felt like our guys got better each week. At the end we played about as good as we could play in what we tried to do against Chipley.
"We will be back in the conditioning mode and the strength-building mode starting on the 17th. The one thing we've got to do over the rest of the summer is get the rest of our package in. At the same time, we've got to get into some type of game shape because we are going to be tested in week one when we host Graceville."
Sophomore Jon Beck and senior Ben Crowson will battle for the starting quarterback spot and will probably share time under center. Brunson will be comfortable with either player in the game.
"Jon Beck and Ben Crowson are both going to be very good players and we are going to use both of them," Brunson said. "Jon brings youth, and he's got three more years in the program. He's got a very live arm.
"Ben's probably got a little more experience, as far as being in varsity games. Ben's a little more shifty. He's an option-type quarterback and also can throw."
Both quarterbacks are great athletes with useful skill sets, Brunson said.
David Oglesby is the third option at quarterback.
Brunson was pleased with the play of line in the spring game.
"Our offensive line came together and we were able to knock some big holes against Chipley," he said. "We are going to be very solid up front."
Zach Way and Bubba Ellis are slated to play center. Dakota Campbell and Jake Rainey will be at guard. The quartet of Calvin Blankenship, Dakota Blackburn, Alex Ball and Jacob McKenzie will anchor the tackle spots.
Kodi Nixon, Jonathan Gatewood and Chasen Holt will handle tight end duties.
The average size of the Gator offensive linemen is about 6-foot-1, 230.
However, “It's not all about size," Brunson said. "I feel like I played a pretty high level of college football (at the then Troy State) and I was never over 5-10 and 240.
"If these guys will buy into the program, play with the proper pad level and get strong enough, they are going to be fine. We are not going to be huge. But our guys up front are going to be very aggressive."
D.J. Thomas and Richard Stroheker will get most carries from the tailback spot. Thomas is coming off a junior year in which he rushed for more than 1,000 and scored 17 touchdowns.
Brandon Engler, Austin Martin and Tyler Oliver will be the fullbacks leading the way for Thomas and Stroheker.
"D.J. Thomas and Richard Stroheker are both downhill, physical runners that get behind their pads and finish runs," Brunson said. "Those fullbacks are very selfless. They don't touch the ball a lot and they do a great job blocking.
"A lot of times we have Engler and Martin on the field at the same time and use one of them as a wingback and one of them as a fullback. In that department we are going to be just fine."
Wilder Kersey, Josh Long, Jacob Nixon and Kodi Moen will play receiver.
Brunson described the receiving corps as a solid group.
"We've just got to keep working the things we do to give our quarterbacks a chance to read and throw," he said. "They are going to be physical and they are going to block well, but we need to work on creating separation when we get some man coverage.
"It's not hard to play that position, but you've got to be athletic enough to create separation and get open and tough enough to block."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.