By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
AMORY – When looking at the passing statistics for this year’s Amory High team, it’s hard to believe that Trent Hammond was once the head coach of a team that passed just 38 times during a 14-game season.
“When I was at Franklin County in 2009,” Hammond recalled, “we played 14 games and threw 38 times for the year.
“Now, we may throw it 38 times in a half.”
In his second season at the helm, Hammond’s Panthers are using no-back sets and airing it out. They have thrown for 2,341 yards and 22 touchdowns in seven games this season. They are averaging 334.4 yards per game.
In comparison, the Panthers (5-2) have only rushed for 272 yards this season – an average of 38.9 per game.
So why the disparity in passing and running plays? Isn’t it a goal of every coach to have a balanced offense?
“We actually switched it about the third or fourth game last year,” Hammond said of favoring the passing game over the run. “This is something we’ve been involved in for about a year.
“Last year, we changed because we weren’t having a lot of success early in the year, in 2010, and we went to a more passing-type offense. It allowed us to have more success moving the football during the course of the year.”
What’s even more amazing about the change in offensive philosophy is that Hammond was a run-first guy.
“I’m a believer in old-school football. Play defense, run and control the football. You can’t do those things if you’re not physical,” Hammond told the Monroe Journal during his first spring camp with the Panthers.
“Coach Hammond has always been the run guy,” said quarterback Forest Williams, who’s now in his senior year at Amory. “So, I guess it was hard for him to get away from it.”
To Hammond’s credit, however, he did say this right after arriving at Amory: “I’m not going to come in and say, ‘We’re going to run this system or that system,’ without looking at kids and knowing what we can fit in.”
Change is good
After realizing that the offensive line was better suited for blocking on pass plays than power-run plays and that true “big blocking backs” (or fullbacks) and a strong blocking tight end were not present in the program, Hammond and Co. realized they “couldn’t put a square peg in a round whole” and that a change could do them good.
“We had more receiver-type kids than running backs,” said Hammond.
With a coaching staff that has experience playing and coaching at the college level – John Keith, the offensive coordinator, and assistants Chris McCrory and Linzy Patterson helping him out – and a college prospect at quarterback who has five good receivers to throw to, the Panthers excelled during the 7-on-7 passing sessions and developed a virtually unstoppable passing attack.
In five games, Williams has already surpassed passing totals that would be considered a tremendous season for any high school quarterback. Not to mention, he missed two games and three quarters with a dislocated left elbow.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound quarterback – who’s being recruited by Delta State and Arkansas State, in addition to having talked with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the University of Alabama at Birmingham – has thrown for 1,660 yards and 21 touchdowns. He’s completed nearly 69 percent of his passes (116 of 169; only two interceptions), and Dario Robinson (56 catches for 794 yards and 8 TDs) happens to be Williams’ go-to guy, the Amory QB says.
“It’s always fun watching Peyton (Manning),” Williams said of the NFL quarterback. “I could watch Peyton every day, all day.”
The same could be said about the Amory offense.