Trojans focus on ground game as opener against Arlee nears

| August 25, 2020 9:07 AM

The Troy Trojans will put a new offensive strategy to the test when they take to their home field against Arlee on Aug. 28 for the first matchup of the season.

The team will focus on its running game this year, head coach Luke Haggerty said. Last season, the Trojans threw the ball about 75 percent of the time, he said.

That was much too high in retrospect, Haggerty said.

To get the ball down the field, the Trojans will be relying on the speed of Dylan Peterson, 18, and Trevor Grant, 15. Both will double as running backs and quarterbacks.

Peterson, one of the senior Trojan leaders on the team, said last week that the team was shaping up better than he expected.

The team’s roster was diminished after several potential players failed classes when schools switched to remote schedules in the spring. While he expected at least 25 players to come out for the team, Haggerty saw just 13 show up for the first day of practice. As a result, some younger players with less experience have the chance to showcase their potential.

After one week of practice, Peterson said the Trojans have gotten in shape pretty quick.

“The ones that are actually putting in an effort are getting their plays down right,” he said. “If they don’t, they are making sure to ask questions so they can get it right.”

Going into his second year with the Trojans, Grant is one of the younger standouts on the squad. Looking forward, he is confident about the team’s chances against Arlee. Speed, he predicted, will be the key to the Trojans’ run heavy strategy.

Another sophomore stepping up this year is 15-year-old Paxton Fisher. After getting sidelined last season because of a broken collarbone, Paxton Fisher is ready to step into his role as a wide receiver.

“Arlee [doesn’t] know what’s gonna hit them,” he said.

In addition to the team’s focus on running, Haggerty is working on the Trojan’s tackling skills. Proper tackling has been one of the team’s weak points in years past.

Coaches run their players through form tackling drills on a daily basis. To protect his players, Haggerty has adopted “hawk tackling,” a style popularized by the Seattle Seahawks. The form keeps the tackling player’s head out of the collision and reduces the risk of concussion, according to Haggerty.

Peterson noted that with a limited number of players, it would not take many injuries to jeopardize the team’s season.

“Anybody gets hurt, it’s kind of over,” he said.

One of the other senior leaders, Jace Fisher, 17, has helped mentor younger players on their technique. The 300-pound left tackle, who has committed to play at Montana State, commands respect on the team.

“When he starts yelling at you, you do whatever he says,” Haggerty said.

Following practice, Fisher said his teammates can’t be afraid to hit. Sharpening up on fundamentals like snap counts, catching and locking schemes will also be important to the Trojan’s success he said.

With the Trojans’ new focus on running, he anticipates the team will do well against Arlee. He said he could see the Trojans performing even better as the season progresses, particularly after getting through any opening night jitters.

Having logged another solid practice, Haggerty gathered his team around him on the field on Aug. 19. With only nine practices left before the first game, he told his players to keep working on mental errors like not knowing the count.

“Everybody has a job to do and if everybody does their job right we’ll be just fine,” he said.