For only the second time in the program’s 34 years, the Ellison football team went winless in 2011.
Affected by roster turnover and midseason offensive scheme changes, the Eagles were the definition of dysfunctional a year ago.
The root of the problem began and ended with their offense, which switched from its long-standing wing-T format to more of a wide-open spread and then into a wildcat-type attack. All the change took its toll on an offense that managed just 8.1 points per game, ranking it among the worst in Class 5A.
Adding to the difficulties, Ellison surrendered nearly 40 points per game.
But this is a different year and the re-invigorated Eagles are seeking to get back to their bread-and-butter — running the football.
“We feel like ... Ellison has always been able to run the ball and we kind of got away from that,” Ellison coach Buddy McBryde said. “We’re not going to do that, we’re going to be in formations that are conducive to run the football.”
That will depend on the growth of senior tailback Isiah Cowan, who rushed for 884 yards after emerging as Ellison’s No. 1 backfield option, but only scored four times all season.
An experienced offensive line could be the difference, so long as it can stay healthy. Already, the Eagles could be without three-year starting center Tyler Bark for a few weeks as he recovers from a broken foot suffered late in preseason camp.
Offensively, though, it starts at quarterback, where Ellison is breaking in last year’s JV signal-caller, Trent Jones, and senior DeSoto-transfer Rasheed Dashiell, who previously spent time at both Harker Heights and Killeen. Their acumen in Ellison’s new run-based split-I offense, and how quickly they grasp things could be pivotal to turning it all around.
On defense, it’s about stopping the run, something the Eagles were deficient at last season allowing a district-worst 305.5 yards per game. Key to correcting that issue could rest with the play of junior linebackers Anthony Harding and Reginald Ford, as well as improved play along the defensive line.
If improvements can be made, Ellison always has enough talent to fight for one of the final few playoff spots, with the potential to snap a four-year postseason drought.