Eagles grounded

The power-running Menominee Indian Eagles? That's the game plan.

After a disappointing zero-win season last year, Eagles coach Chris Clache says his offense will look different this year.

"We've been known for passing in the past," Clache said. "That's been part of the problem. We haven't been able to run the ball very well."

The Eagles will switch to a power running double wing offense this season. Clache thinks the scheme is a good fit for his athletes and will keep the ball away from opponents.

When executed correctly, the double wing is hard to defend and takes a lot of time off the board. Controlling the clock could help the Eagles fix a huge scoring deficit from a season ago. Menominee only scored 95 points, while giving up 469 points on defense. Both were the worst totals in a decade for Menominee.

"We'd be three-and-out a lot," Clache said. "We'd put our defense in a hole quite a bit. That's why we switched this year."

As the focus of the offense turns to the running back position, Menominee will have to deal with the loss of Gary Miller, the team's leading rusher last season (84 carries for 347 yards and three touchdowns).

Four-year letter winner Forrest Tourtillott has had some action in the backfield since his freshman year, but the coaches expect him to step up more this year. Also in the Eagles' backfield: Stanley Robinson, Neiko Kaquatosh, Kyle Winker and Ernest Wahsawonaquizik.

At fullback, the Eagles will have senior Clifford Madosh and sophomore Naeciwat LaTender - a pair of guys their coach says "bring a nasty, tough attitude to the offensive side of the ball."

Clache likes what he's seen from his line.

"We have some good linemen who can pull," Clache said.

The line is anchored by four-year starting center Soseah Connavichna, a two-time all-conference selection. Clache also expects big things from Kyle Makimetas and Donald Tourtillott.

All this focus on ball control does not mean the Eagles will abandon the passing game entirely.

"We can still throw the ball," Clache said. "Alex Wynos - he was our quarterback last year - he's a good thrower."

Clache says that Wynos, a two-year starter, is a great vocal leader and the best pure athlete on the team.

Though Wynos only connected on 41 percent of his passes - throwing for 698 yards, three touchdowns and 10 interceptions - his numbers should improve if the Eagles running game can put the QB in better down and distance situations.

Wynos will lose his primary target from a year ago - wide receiver Robert King, who had 24 catches for 336 yards and a touchdown - but will have his second favorite target in senior Jeff Dixon. Dixon had 15 catches for 223 yards and a touchdown - and a team leading 14.9 yards per catch. Dixon was also the team's leading tackler a year ago with 56 tackles, 26 solo.

Also in the receiver mix are John Peters, who had seven catches and 18 rushes last year for a combined 144 yards and a touchdown, and Warren Miller, who made some plays on defense as a freshman (three tackles for loss and a sack).

One of the biggest obstacles Menominee faces is depth. The team only has 28-29 athletes on the roster, compared to 47 at this time a year ago.

"Depth is going to be a major concern," Clache said. "We have to stay healthy."

Clache says only three freshman and five sophomores joined the team this season.

Overall the coach is happy with the athletes he does have.

"As far as effort, being in shape, and stuff like that, we look pretty good," Clache said. "They all have showed great character in the face of adversity. Could not be more proud of our guys. A scrappy bunch that could make some noise this season."

The Eagles will open the season against nonconference rivals Bowler/Gresham on Friday.

"Our guys have been talking about that game since the season ended," Clache said. "That's always a good rivalry game."

By: 
Gerrard Diaz
Subhead: 
Team goes from pass-first to power run philosophy
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