Daily photo by Brennen Smith|
Falkville's balanced attack is led by, from left, Jonathan McNatt (6), Brandon Clark (32), Dustin Jump (22), Jace Wilemon (11), Shane Ellis (21) and Steven Lindsey (25). The Blue Devils are enjoying early season success at 2-0 for the first time since 2000.
Ready for a shootout
Falkville's balanced offense
has Devils off to fast start
By Brooke Milam
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2460
FALKVILLE — Several members of Falkville High's offense sat around the team's fieldhouse earlier this week talking about football, scoring points and what they know fans will be expecting from them this season.
"People want to see long passes, long runs," senior receiver Steven Lindsey said.
And when Burl Vest Stadium fills up Friday night like the players think it will for the home opener against Class 2A, Region 5 foe Fultondale, Falkville thinks it can give the Blue Devils' crowd what it's looking for.
"People want to see big plays," junior quarterback Jonathan McNatt said. "Big plays are what they want to see, and we've proven we can score."
Falkville is 2-0 for the first time since 2000, and even
with only six seniors on their roster, the Blue Devils have managed to piece together a good offense. It's one they believe can bring pride to this Morgan County community this week in its first home game of the year.
Both Falkville (2-0) and Fultondale (2-0) pride themselves on offense. Fultondale is averaging 60.5 points per game with wins over first-year program Shades Mountain Christian and region opponent Victory Christian.
"It'll be our first real test of the season," junior running back Dustin Jump said.
But Falkville likes its chances in a shootout, if it comes to that.
"We're capable of scoring on any play," third-year Falkville coach Neil Estes said.
Falkville doesn't count on one superstar. In fact, Estes said the lack of a go-to guy is what makes Falkville's offense strong. A handful of Blue Devils have proven they can make a big play when it counts, and the multi-threat approach is what has kept opponents on their toes.
Four Blue Devils have scored Falkville's eight touchdowns so far this season.
Quarterback McNatt has thrown two touchdown passes to Lindsey and scored a pair of his own on keepers. McNatt also has scored on a 2-point run.
Jump has made it into the end zone twice on runs.
Senior tight end Brandon Clark has scored on a touchdown pass and a 2-point pass, both from McNatt. Clark was a running back last season before switching to tight end this year.
Jace Wilemon has tacked on the extra points, making all four he has attempted.
"We feel like when we put the ball in our running backs' hands, they'll make a play," Estes said.
And as for McNatt, Estes said, "On the option, he's turning it up. He's really like another running back out there."
The Blue Devils returned their entire backfield from last season and are working with experience this season, enjoying the luxuries of a group that Estes said has "always had a little confidence about them."
"I think we have the mentality that we're going to score and nobody's going to stop us," McNatt said. "I like how it's looking, but there's still a lot of room for improvement also."
Falkville's highest point total last season came in a 40-22 win over Cold Springs. The Blue Devils averaged 18.3 points in 11 games last year, but are set to eclipse that average pending the continued improvement of an inexperienced offensive line that currently starts a freshman center and a pair of sophomores.
The only experienced lineman on Falkville's offensive front is 6-foot-4, 225-pound senior Dustin Reeves, a three-year starter.
Falkville's offense praises its defense, which has a 21-0 shutout of Danville to its credit in the season opener and held off Westbrook Christian in a 29-22 come-from-behind win last week. The Blue Devils shut out the Warriors in the second half, and the Falkville offense says it works off the spark provided by the defense.
With seven two-way starters, Falkville figured fatigue would be a factor this season. The Blue Devils' defense lost two of its three leading tacklers from last season, leaving McNatt, a safety, as the only returnee of the top three.
Falkville took comfort in the fact that its offense would be strong after excelling in seven-on-seven passing camps.
"We knew offense would be important this season with so much experience coming back at our skill positions," Estes said. "Losing several leading tacklers on the other side, we thought it would behoove us to try to keep the ball as much as possible this season and we've felt comfortable doing that."
Estes said the Blue Devils' schedule "turns vicious" around the sixth game of the season with last year's region runner-up J.B. Pennington. He added that his team is working to be at a higher level of play by that point.
"We've improved from week one to week two offensively," Estes said. "Our work ethic is good and they've been working Monday through Thursday for a payday on Friday. That's what you've got to do to beat good teams down the line."
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