With new dual-threat offense, Marysville-Pilchuck eyes a deeper run
Senior quarterback Jake Luton gives a traditionally run-heavy team a legitimate passing threat, one that the Tomahawks hope will help them avoid another early playoff exit.
Special to The Seattle Times
For years, change has come almost as haltingly as pass attempts for the Marysville-Pilchuck Tomahawks offense.
The Tomahawks ran and ran and ran out of their vaunted Wing-T formations. That meant that defensive units had one task — find which of the three or four potential runners had the football.
Even so, Marysville-Pilchuck rode its offensive philosophy into the playoffs nearly every season. But in the postseason, success became harder to find against better defenses.
As the 2013 season approaches, the Tomahawks still have a stable of top runners led by junior Austin Joyner, who averaged 14 yards a carry as a sophomore a year ago.
The difference the last couple of years has been at quarterback.
Now a senior, Jake Luton gives Marysville-Pilchuck the threat of the pass that the team has at times sorely missed.
And it’s that newfound passing attack that has the Tomahawks talking about Tacoma and the state championship as they prepare to open their Class 3A WesCo season against rival Arlington on Friday.
“You can’t win championships just running the ball,” said Joyner, who came within 19 yards of the school’s single-season rushing record last year. “You don’t see teams get to the Tacoma Dome just running it. Now we have a quarterback who can throw the ball.”
A year ago, Luton threw for more than 1,300 yards. The Tomahawks got deep into the playoffs before running into a loaded Eastside Catholic squad.
“We made a good run,” Luton said. “Then we met a team that was just flat better than us.”
The loss has turned into motivation.
“Definitely,” Joyner said. “You just train harder so the same thing doesn’t happen. I think we’re going deep into the playoffs.”
If the Tomahawks do, it will be due in no small part to this new dual-threat offense.
“There are years, I think it was, like, 2010, where we threw the ball 42 times all year,” Marysville-Pilchuck coach Brandon Carson said. “We did that in the first two games last year. We definitely have evolved offensively.”
That evolution was helped along by Luton’s appearance.
By the time the Marysville native reached the seventh grade and neared his eventual 6-foot-5 height, the questions began to come.
“I’m a drop-back quarterback headed to a school that doesn’t throw the ball,” Luton recalled realizing. “People would come to me and ask, ‘Why don’t you go somewhere else?’ I never wanted to do that. We still run the ball a lot. I can throw it. I think that will be really, really hard to stop.”
Luton received a scholarship offer this summer from Idaho, and other schools are in touch, so he knows he will be playing football once this high school season is over.
That takes the pressure off, which is good, Luton said. It allows for him and the team to focus on what is at hand.
“I know it’s a real cliché,” Luton said. “But we really do look at it as one game at a time. We open with Arlington, who has been our rival. Then we have Lake (Stevens).”
And the Tomahawks’ new offense will wait to contemplate the rest when the time comes.