Gilmer’s Defense Had A Hand In Henderson’s Offensive Awakening
Everything's coming full circle for the Henderson Lions this week.
An interesting subplot to Friday night's Class 3A Division II Region II championship game between District 16-3A rivals Henderson (9-4) and Gilmer (13-1) could be the thing most responsible for the District of Doom rematch.
Gilmer raced out to a 21-3 lead in the first half of their Oct. 13 regular-season matchup before the Henderson coaching staff made a switch that's completely changed the course of the Lions' season.
Henderson needed a spark on offense and inserted multi-talented athlete Patrick "Monster" Brown at quarterback.
“We put him in there at the end of the first half and he broke one for (65 yards) and were able to get close enough, down 21-10 at halftime," Henderson head coach Dickey Meeks said. "We knew we could move the ball that way.”
Henderson fought back in the second half, but fell short, 28-26, after a failed two-point conversion attempt late in the fourth quarter.
“Really the reason for the move was because we weren't being real successful on offense in the first half against Gilmer," Meeks said. "So we decided to go ahead and put Monster back there in the Wildcat. It turned out to be a good thing, but we didn’t really know how well it would be.”
The move has transformed Henderson from a team that used a balanced run-pass formula to a state title in 2010 and a semifinals appearance in 2011 to an offense that's almost abandoned the passing game altogether.
Since the switch, Brown has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 19 touchdowns. Senior running back Diamante Wright has also benefitted, leading the team with 1,259 yards and 16 TDs.
Meeks said the change in philosophy was not as difficult on the coaching staff as some might think.
“I don’t really think it’s that hard on us coaches," he said. "We just had to come it with a different thought process. Went went from throwing it 30 times a game, to just four times. We were already kinda doing some things that helped with that. We had been using more two- or three-tight end alignments.”
Last week's 64-35 win over Celina illustrates just how much the offense has changed. Henderson rushed for 425 yards and attempted just six passes.
But just because the Lions haven't thrown the ball, that doesn't mean they can't.
“(Brown's) not a pocket passer, but he’s very athletic and he can throw the ball pretty well," Meeks said. "He’s got good distance with it and he’s pretty accurate. He could probably get the job done if we had to have it.”
Kickoff for Friday's game is set for 7 p.m. at Longview's Lobo Stadium. The winner will face either Graham (12-1) or Gatesville (13-0) at 7:30 p.m. next Friday (Dec. 14) at Mansfield's Newsom Stadium in the semifinals.