Shotgun wedding: Tyrone married to idea of its new offense

The Tyrone Area High School football program has lined up in the victory formation plenty of times over the past couple decades, but during the Golden Eagles’ first two wins this year, it has looked a little different.

Jason Wilson’s offense is working strictly out of the shotgun, even in short yardage and end-of-the-game situations.

“We went to the shotgun this year, and it was one of those things where I wasn’t completely sold on it until I saw it in a couple games,” Wilson said. “I think the quarterback and running back exchange and the reads have worked out. It fits (running back) Zac (Albright) well, because when he gets the ball, he can see the hole and burst right through it.”

Albright did just that Friday against Central, breaking off a 23-yard run on Tyrone’s first play from scrimmage on the way to 200 yards rushing for the game.

One of the reasons Tyrone has made the shift is the strength of a big offensive line that’s returning plenty of experienced talent. The shotgun snap, in theory, gives the offensive line a little more time to overpower their opponents and create space for the Golden Eagles’ playmakers.

“Our line is unreal this year,” Tyrone quarterback Denver Light said. “They did a lot of work this summer, and they’ve been lifting, working on their steps and creating huge holes. Zac being 6 yards in the backfield has really helped him find those holes and make the cuts he needs to make.”

The approach is similar to the one Penn State’s James Franklin has adopted.

Franklin claims the Nittany Lions do not even practice snaps from under center.

“We’ve had a couple snaps from under center in practice,” Wilson said. “But it’s one of those things where, if we’re going to shotgun snap it, I’m a believer in that’s what you’re going to practice every day. I’m not a believer in going back and forth. That’s when you see a lot of bad snaps when you make a center snap from under center and then turn around and go to the shotgun.

“It’s kind of like if you’re an option team, you run the option. You don’t put it in for a week and say, ‘we’re now an option team,’ so I think 99 percent of the time you are going to see us in the shotgun.”

Though some outsiders may believe fumbles are more likely to occur from a shotgun snap than from under center, both Penn State and Tyrone argue it’s the safer approach.

“It is a little less dangerous,” Light said. “I can get the ball and get back quicker. I’m not really in the box, so if anyone comes in, I can roll out, and if anyone comes from the outside, I can step up.”

The Golden Eagles are still working out the kinks. They fumbled five times in their win against Central, though not all of them were related to the snap and one was with backup quarterback Brandon Lucas running out the clock on the final play.

The results on the field have been impressive so far. Tyrone has already won two games, one shy of its season total from a year ago, and beaten its top two rivals in Bellwood-Antis and Central. The Golden Eagles scored 33 points against the Scarlet Dragons after scoring just 45 combined during a four-game losing streak in the series.

“I like (being in the shotgun),” Light said. “It’s nice to be in the backfield and have some room to run, get away from the line if any blitzers come up the middle. I can really see the field a lot better. I can just sit back there and read through my progressions.”