C.J. Cole

By Luke Campbell

McGuffey’s C.J. Cole leads the Highlanders in receptions (19), yards (461) and touchdowns (8).

For Ed Dalton, not being able to run the football in McGuffey’s flexbone option offense is like trying to beat your opponent by using your non-dominant hand.

It turns into an unfair fight, which the Highlanders would likely lose every time.

“When we can run option, veer and midline, we can give you all kinds of conflicts,” Dalton said. “If we can’t, it’s like we are trying to beat somebody with our left hand.”

It’s not a secret to any opponent what McGuffey (6-0, 8-1) wants to do, including Washington (6-0, 9-0), which visits for a highly anticipated game Friday night that will determine the outright champion in the Class 2A Century Conference. The winner will finish second in the conference.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

To have a puncher’s chance against the Prexies, who Dalton said is the second best team in the state in Class 2A, it could come with McGuffey’s rarely used but efficient passing attack. The rare time that the Highlanders focus on throwing the football comes without shoulder pads or even a full 11 players on the field, participating in 7-on-7’s throughout the summer.

“Obviously, those help a lot,” Dalton said. “You see every coverage known to man. You can gain confidence because you don’t get sacked. You learn all those kind of things and we have tied them directly instantly during some halftimes.”

On the rare times – 407 of McGuffey’s 483 plays have been runs – quarterback Marshall Whipkey has been asked to throw, it’s turned out pretty well. Whipkey has completed 42 of 67 passes this season (63%) for 975 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has only throw one interception.

With the emphasis on stopping the run, defenses have given up chunk plays through the air to McGuffey. Whipkey averages 14.55 yards per completion, and the Highlanders top three receivers averaging at least 22 yards per catch.

“Marshall has a gun,” Dalton said. “I’ve coached some Division I quarterbacks and he has every bit of arm strength. He can throw it 70 yards. He has been running this offense for three years now so he knows what we want to do.”

The biggest of those targets is senior wide receiver C.J. Cole, who has 19 catches for 461 yards and eight scores. Slotbacks Nate Yagle and Jared Johnson have a combined 17 receptions for 440 yards and seven touchdowns.

“C.J. is a case study. If you get the ball anywhere near him he is going to catch it,” Dalton joked about Cole, who challenges defensive backs with his 6-5 height and multi-sport athleticism.

Cole drew the attention of Avonworth last week after two long catches. In a 34-20 win for the Antelopes, they double-covered Cole for the final three-and-a-half quarters.

Washington has allowed only three teams to run for more than 100 yards.

“(Washington) plays with very good discipline,” Dalton said. “You just have to beat them at playing football, but that’s easier said than done. We have to have everything at our disposal.”

Staff Writer

Luke Campbell has been handling a multitude of tasks since joining the Observer-Reporter in 2015, following his graduation from Waynesburg University. He graduated from Waynesburg with a bachelor’s degree in sports broadcasting and information.

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