There are as many types of football fans as there are formations and philosophies. While some favor conservative running games or option attacks featuring the proverbial “three yards and a cloud of dust,” new Granby Bears Head Coach Rich Gadoury’s run and shoot, pass-first offense will keep local fans of football excited this fall.
Gadoury is the second head coach in the team’s history and was previously an assistant in Granby for three years. He coached from the press box at Bristol’s Muzzy Field for Granby’s first varsity contest in 2010. Other coaching experience includes time at the high school in Weston, MA and Western New England College.
Gadoury grew up playing in Chicopee, MA. He was an offensive lineman while in college at Framingham State in Massachusetts, seeing duty at guard, tackle and occasionally center, he said. His offensive inclination strongly informs his team philosophy as head coach.
“I live for the offense,” Gadoury said. “Offense is the hand that feeds.”
He’s brought a new attitude to the team as well, embracing the phrase, “Eleven as one” during warm ups and bringing a simple, strong mental philosophy – “We believe” – that also serves as the Bears' call-and-response pump-up phrase.
While the new coach described himself as “more strict and in your face” than what players had been used to, his inclination towards discipline doesn’t preclude an exciting offense.
The team’s base offensive formation is the run and shoot, a high-action, heavy-passing attack characterized by a adept passing quarterback (often under center) and a single, powerful runner in the backfield. The scheme’s signature is its two ends and two wing backs acting as receivers, giving the quarterback at least four options on each pass play and stretching the field from sideline to sideline, creating holes in opposing defenses for both runs and passes.
“I’d like this to be a 70-30 team,” Gadoury said, ideally looking to pass the football on 70 percent of offensive plays while running the ball during the other 30 percent of offensive snaps.
Gadoury pointed out personnel on the Bears that will make the run and shoot go, including junior and three-year varsity starting quarterback Curt Field, wing backs Ben Marler and Caleb McMullin, power running back Steve Blake and ends Ian Downey, a senior, and Drew Ash, a junior. Blake will rotate with two other, speedy backs, creating even more of a change-of-pace attack. The coach called his line strong but young (not the worst problem to have, he noted) and pointed to two standouts, senior Thomas Ullmann and junior Jake Largay.
The run and shoot has had many proponents in high school and college football, from originators “Mouse” Davis and “Tiger” Ellison’s critical inventiveness in spreading out their ends and wing backs to stretch opposing defenses across the field to the more recent run and shoot shotgun spread favored by Hawaii coach June Jones.
The run and shoot’s most memorable moment for many fans was in the NFL, with the Houston Oilers of the late 1980s piling up big offensive numbers by following the pass-first philosophy with hall-of-fame quarterback Warren Moon.
To say Gadoury is assured of his offense is a safe statement.
“I have the confidence in my athletes to get the first down when we need it,” he said, noting a predilection (in appropriate situations) for his offense to stay on the field during fourth down as opposed to sending out the punt unit.
Despite his offensive inclinations, Gadoury didn’t discount the hard work by the Bears on the defense side of the ball. Led by first-year defensive coordinator Jeff Sturgeon, the Bears defense will appear in a four lineman, four linebacker (4-4 formation) base set that is “multiple,” adaptable to situations as circumstances on the field dictate.
The defense’s key players will be its inside linebackers (ILB). The two likely studs at the ILB position for the upcoming season are Steve Blake, the previously mentioned running back, and Thomas Ullmann, the senior lineman.
With a total roster of 45 players, almost all of the Bears will see duty during all three phases of the game.
“We don’t have many reserves,” Gadoury said.
For special teams, Gadoury is excited for the possibilities brought to the field by kicker Ian Downey, also an end, who could be named all-league. The Bears coach said he’s not afraid to give Downey opportunities to covert field goals anywhere inside the opposing team’s 35-yard line, meaning Downey is both strong and accurate in the kicking game.
Like any good coach, Gadoury has prepared some offensive tricks and gadgets that he hopes will leave opposing defenses confused, but, again, like any good coach, wouldn’t reveal anything too specific. He did say to watch out for some double wing plays – “blasts from the past,” he said – and some modern spread passing elements.
Gadoury, whose first head-coaching job in Connecticut began when he was hired in February, will begin being marked in the record books with a game in Enfield on Friday, Sept. 14.
“I’ve been itching for this game since I got hired,” he said. “Enfield is the only game I care about right now.”
As for the team’s performance so far, Gadoury is excited.
“This is one of the best pre-seasons Granby football has ever had,” he said, noting that the team has been all football, all the time and has grown significantly as a unit.
“I demand more of them than they expected,” Gadoury said.
Besides Gadoury and Sturgeon, defensive secondary and wide receivers coach Chris Dahmke and offensive and defensive line coach Gary Bilodeau round out this year’s coaching staff.
The Bears open their season away against Enfield on Friday, Sept. 14. They have their home opener on Sept. 29 against Suffield/Windsor Locks/East Granby at 1 p.m.
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