Indians work on ball-control mentality

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TOUCHET — Gary Dorman did a little arithmetic during the off season.

And what the Touchet High football coach discovered was that, on average, his team scored a touchdown every fourth time it touched the ball during the 2011 season. This was, of course, by way of runs and passes from scrimmage, punt and kickoff returns, pass interception returns and possibly a fumble recovery or two that was taken to the house.

Not a bad problem to have, right?

Well, yes and no.

“It was a good problem,” Dorman concurred. “But a problem nonetheless.”

The negative side of the Indians’ get-rich-quick personality was that the team spent the majority of every game on defense. In one game, Dorman noted, the Indians ran 29 offensive plays compared to their opponent’s 78.

And playing defense, Dorman suggested, is physically more demanding. Especially in the 8-man game where athletes are responsible for defending a larger chunk of turf.

So, what Dorman and his assistant coaches have worked hard to establish the last couple of weeks in preparation for their 2012 season opener here Sept. 8 against Soap Lake is a ball-control mentality when the Indians are on offense.

“We are going to be a little more conservative,” Dorman said. “We are going to rely a little less on the big play and instead control the ball a little bit longer and control the tempo a little better so that it is in our favor.

“We’ll still run our motion offense,” the coach continued. “But we’re also going back to some old double-tight and some pro-set formations. Run hard up the middle because we have some running backs who lend themselves to that.

“We even dusted off coach Dickey’s playbook the other day.”

Wayne Dickey coached the Indians for 30 seasons before turning the reins over to Dorman, his longtime assistant coach, in 2010. And Dickey was never happier than when his teams had the personnel to chew up yardage and the clock with a power running attack.

Jose Martinez, a 5-foot-8, 210-pound senior fireplug, will be the focal point of the Indians’ new look. He was an effective inside runner as a junior and will be Dorman’s first option this fall when he sends in a play.

Senior Octavio Preciado (5-8, 175) is expected to line up alongside Martinez in the offensive backfield. And sophomore Colter McKeown (5-10, 160) will provide a speed option off the bench.

The Indians are also experienced at the quarterback position with junior Elias Martinez (5-10, 150) returning for his second season under center. Martinez shared the position with Preciado during last year’s non-league games before Dorman made the decision to go with the younger QB.

“We weren’t sure Elias could handle the pressure as a sophomore,” Dorman said. “But he did just fine, and he’s a lot stronger this year and has grown a couple of inches. He’s throwing the ball really well in practice.”

Where Touchet isn’t as experienced is in the offensive line, where guards Dan Can and Matt Shute along with end Eric Hines were among the Indians lost to graduation.

“They were significant contributors to our success last year,” Dorman said. “Dan and Matt were three-year starters on our offensive line, and Eric was a clutch receiver.”

Senior Nate Ortiz (5-8, 185) was the Indians’ starting center last year after recovering from an early season injury. He’s being moved to a guard position this fall, which opens up center for junior Ivan Hernandez (5-8, 210), who filled in for Ortiz when he was injured.

“Ivan started maybe half the season last year when Nate was hurt,” Dorman said. “And Ivan also saw time spelling our guards. Nate and Ivan both played quite a bit last year.”

Senior Jamie Martinez (5-8, 215) saw limited playing time a year ago, but he’s first in line to fill the other vacated guard position on offense.

Senior Cori Ochoa (5-9, 165) started opposite Hines at the other end position last year and will be there again in 2012. And senior Lyle Dowsett (6-0, 170) is penciled in to take Hines’ place.

“Lyle subbed in at end last year and caught a few passes,” Dorman said.

Other players likely to see significant playing time on offense are junior running backs Cesar Vasquez (5-6, 150) and Colton Goble (5-6, 140), and juniors Tyler Rensland (6-1, 215) and Casey Sewell (5-9, 185) and sophomores Zac Neuschwander (5-8, 170) and Tim Weber (6-0, 290) along the offensive line.

Another player who could factor in on offense is junior transfer Brock Lane (5-9, 180), who is getting some reps at running back.

“He’s new to the school this year,” Dorman said. “He transferred in from somewhere in California and has some football experience, although not in 8-man football. But he’s a good kid who is working hard.”

Dorman will also have to rebuild his defensive unit.

Ty Garbe, another of last year’s seniors, was a mainstay on the defensive line, as were Can and Shute. Hines was outstanding in the defensive secondary. And another graduated senior, Jesus Saldana, saw extensive backup duty in the backfield.

However, Jose Martinez is a returning starter at defensive tackle. Ortiz saw extensive playing time on the line and is expected to start at one end position. And Ochoa and Preciado are returning starters at the linebacker positions.

Junior Ruben Butler (6-0, 150) saw some varsity playing time at linebacker and defensive end. Goble also played some at linebacker and Dowsett at defensive end.

Hernandez, Weber, Rensland and Sewell are other defensive linemen battling for playing time. Elias Martinez, Vasquez, Lane, Colter McKeown and junior Conner McKeown (5-8, 135) are candidates for playing time in the defensive secondary.

Senior Vicente Flores, it seems, is the X-factor in Dorman’s plans.

Last fall as a junior, Flores was the Indians’ most explosive player and touchdown maker. But academic issues in the spring left him ineligible for the first few weeks of the 2012 season, and as of this writing he had not turned out for the team.

“We don’t know if he will turn out,” Dorman said. “I haven’t seen him. Some of the kids have, and they tell me he will turn out. But right now he’s finishing up a couple of summer job.”

But Flores’ uncertainty isn’t the reason why the Indians’ coaching staff decided to change course on offense, Dorman emphasized.

“That was going to happen anyway,” the coach said. “In fact, it started happening late last season when we went up against some of the better teams that were able to contain Vicente.

“The good teams figured him out, and we played some good teams at the end of the year.”

The Indians finished 8-3 last year and qualified for the postseason by placing third in the Southeast 1B-8 League with a 5-2 mark. But they began the season 7-0 before dropping three of their last four games, including a 60-16 walloping at the hands of Liberty Christian and a 52-8 pasting by Almira-Coulee-Hartline in the state quarterfinals.

Liberty Christian, which wasn’t eligible for the playoffs last year, is this fall and looms as one of the obvious favorites in the SEB-8.

“They have to be considered the top dog,” Dorman said of the Patriots, who were junior laden in 2011. “Pomeroy lost their top runner, but they’re basically in a reload situation. And I think most of the Whitman County schools are loaded for the most part.

“Our goal, as always, is to make the playoffs. And we will know a lot about ourselves after the first three weeks.”

After their opener against Soap Lake, a Class B-11 program before dropping down this year, the Indians travel to Odessa-Harrington for a second difficult non-league affair before opening league play at home against Liberty Christian.

“The idea,” Dorman said, “is to get better each and every week. The goal is to be playing our best football in October and November.”

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