When No. 21 Liberty (Henderson, Nev.) travels to No. 12 Centennial (Corona, Calif.) on Friday night, don’t expect a 7-6 slugfest.
Centennial (3-1) is averaging just under 49 points a game and giving up 34 points per contest. Liberty (3-0) is only averaging 34 points a game, but the last time these teams met, in 2013, Centennial won 60-42.
RELATED: Latest Super 25 football rankings
Over the past decade, point totals have been inching up for Super 25 teams. We looked at two weeks in September in 2006 and in those weeks, Super 25 teams averaged 37.26 and 35.7 points a game. Taking the most recent weeks in the Super 25 schedule this season, teams averaged 41.52 and 40.6 points a game. That’s a big jump and it attests to the power of wide-open spread offenses and no-huddle systems.
The growth of scoring would be even greater but not for the growing trend of states adopting a running clock, or mercy rule, when the score gets out of hand. Thirty-four states have running clock provisions in blowouts and recent states that have added mercy rules include Idaho, Ohio, North Carolina, and California.
But the growth in scoring continues. Centennial is a prime example. The last time the Huskies didn’t average at least 45 points a game was in 2009. The way the Huskies put up points, opponents have a hard time keeping up.
“The last time we played them, we were down 21-0 before we could score,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “They play those really wide splits and have really fast athletic guys. All they want to do is wall you off. We have to tackle in open space. I feel like this year, we have more athletes who can make tackles in the open field.”
Centennial’s Huskies have run for 253 and passed for 323 yards a game. That balance, combined with a no-huddle offense, can wreak havoc on opponents.
“We have to disguise our pressure,” Muraco said. “They definitely put some strain on you defensively — they play fast. You have to play base coverage a lot of times because you don’t have time to change defense. We have been working on our hand signals.”
Centennial coach Matt Logan said there are two big reasons teams are scoring more.
“A lot of teams are no-huddle, so it creates more scoring opportunities,” Logan said. “No. 2, is the fact that teams are utilizing their quarterback as a runner. You’re defending 11 people where years ago you were defending 10.”
It’s no coincidence then that many top teams in the Super 25 have quarterbacks who can run as well as throw. Tate Martell, the quarterback for No. 1 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) has passed for 737 yards and 11 touchdowns and run for 406 yards and six touchdowns. Kellen Mond, the quarterback for No. 2 IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), has thrown for 921 yards and 11 touchdowns and run for 369 yards and five touchdowns.
“I think the run-pass option element of football has made it really difficult for defenses to stop the offense,” Muraco said. “We have plays, where depending on the team, the offensive line blocks run and it’s on the quarterback to decide to run or throw the ball. Mid-play reads put a lot of strain on the defense. You throw in the evolution of passing at the high school level. So many kids now spend the entire year passing the ball and they are better at making the reads.”
No. 3 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) is 4-0 and averaging 59 points a game, despite having three games go to the running clock. JT Daniels, the quarterback for No. 3 Mater Dei (Santa Ana), is more of a pure passer with 23 passing touchdowns, but the Monarchs also use the no-huddle spread.
“I think other programs, not just the established ones like (St. John) Bosco, Centennial and Mater Dei, are doing a good job of investigating the spread offense,” Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said. “It’s hard to defend the spread. It’s not the plays, it’s the players. We’re racking up some major yardage and some major points, but we have a core of receivers and a quarterback who come along every 10 years. (Matt) Barkley, back in 2007 when he was a junior, he had a fleet of five guys who all had the ingredients of speed, could understand team defenses and you had a trigger who understand the weaknesses and the mismatches. That’s what it comes down to.”