Berryhill finds new home in the air
BY MIKE BROWN World Sports Writer
Monday, May 28, 2012
5/28/12 at 5:22 AM
Berryhill: Two-Minute Drill
Q&A: Devin Swift, Sapulpa RB
Berryhill's football team used a strategy that flew in the face of tradition last season, proving that even longtime coaches can learn new tricks.
Since 1992, the Chiefs have gone 173-68, powered largely by the wishbone or other run-based attack.
"I've been here since kindergarten, and smash-mouth football was always the way they did things," strong-armed quarterback Zach Jackson said.
But with the 6-foot-3 Jackson at the controls last season, the Chiefs started throwing frequently and learned to love the bomb.
"As a quarterback, I was fine with it," Jackson said. "But I'm sure it felt a little weird to (head coach Pat Harper)."
Not at all, Harper said. Not when Jackson was helping lead the Chiefs to the Class 3A semifinals and a 12-2 mark, the best in Harper's six years at the helm.
"We're always gonna be physical and run the ball," Harper said. "But if we've got receivers and a quarterback who can get the ball to them, we're gonna take advantage of whatever we can."
In 2009, the Chiefs used a balanced attack under Harper to go 11-3 and reach the 3A championship game.
But the 2009 Chiefs threw when defensive alignments dictated. The strong-armed Jackson, rated as one of the state's top pitching prospects in baseball, threw almost at will last year.
He totaled 2,570 yards and 23 touchdowns, and had nine games with least one completion of 40 yards or more.
Jackson's ability to spread the ball forced defenses to play the Chiefs more honestly and not crowd the line, hoping to stop running back Adam Dolan, who rushed for 1,578 yards and 23 TDs.
"That was one of the hardest things about playing us," Harper said. "We could play physical and run at you, but we could also line up and throw the ball. I think it's the reason we almost ended up playing for a state championship last year."
Berryhill's only losses were to 3A finalists Cascia Hall and eventual champion Anadarko. Over 14 games, the Chiefs averaged 384.6 yards and 33.4 points, a seven-year high.
Dolan is lost to graduation, along with brother Aaron Dolan, a two-way standout at tight end and defensive end, and middle linebacker Justin Tomlinson, a heat-seeking tackle machine who totaled an astronomical 623 stops over four seasons.
But Harper feels the Chiefs can challenge again if they are able to restock at running back and find other key replacements.
Jackson returns two of his key receivers. Cousin Justin Jackson totaled 42 receptions for 595 yards in 2011 and Jeremy Smith, a 6-4, 215-pound junior to be, caught nine TD passes.
Smith is almost undoubtedly the Chiefs' best athlete on both sides of the ball. He proved that last year by totaling nine sacks from defensive end. As a college prospect, Harper calls Smith "the real deal."
"He can run, jump, use his hands to get off blocks and attack the quarterback," Harper said. "(Opponents) couldn't account for him. On offense, we can spread him out and let him catch a deep pass or bring him in tight and use him on play-action routes. And he's a great blocker."
Smith learned blocking as an offensive lineman from the third grade through junior high. He weighed 280 pounds two years ago, but trimmed the weight and returned more athletic last season, just in time to play a prominent role in Berryhill's daring new passing game.
Below are dates and times for area high schools' spring football games or events.
Thursday: B.T. Washington, 9 a.m.
Note: To add your school to the list, please contact Barry Lewis at 918-581-8393 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Brown 918-581-8390
Berryhill quarterback Zach Jackson helped lead the Chiefs to the 3A semifinals last season. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World