Southwestern coach Fred Kaiss said the conservative philosophy of high-school football coaches who repeatedly run the fullback up the middle may be slowly becoming a thing of the past.
The wide-open style that the run-and-shoot offense creates has arrived in area high-school football this season, most notably at Southwestern and North County.
Kaiss, a rookie head coach, and North County coach Chuck Markiewicz, in his fourth year as a head coach, each adopted the run-and-shoot as his form of offense after attending the same run-and-shoot clinic during the off-season.
And North County quarterback John Ray and Southwestern quarterback Diarra Davis have compiled impressive passing statistics this season.
Ray has completed 156 of 332 passes for 1,980 yards -- believed to be an area record -- and 15 touchdowns. Davis has completed 100 of 173 for 1,797 yards and 21 touchdowns.
The run-and-shoot formation uses two wide receivers, two slot-backs and one running back. Each receiver has many patterns. The run-and-shoot can spread out a defense and open huge holes for the running game.
St. Mary's, for example, uses the run-and-shoot with an emphasis on the run. The Saints have one runner with more than 800 yards, another with nearly 800 and a quarterback who has passed for nearly 600 yards.
One of the disadvantages to the run-and-shoot is that it exposes the quarterback to hard hits. But if the defense blitzes, the receivers are left in one-on-one matchups with the defensive backs.
Another disadvantage is that sometimes the quarterback and his receivers are not in sync, preventing the offense from controlling the ball and putting the defense on the field longer.
What can a defense do to stop the run-and-shoot?
"They have to do one of two things: defend it or put pressure on it," Markiewicz said. "With us knowing that's what they have to do, we have a game plan for each. We feel people will do things to slow us down, but sooner or later we're going to find something."
Markiewicz, who left Meade after last season to become the first head coach of newly opened North County, the product of the Andover-Brooklyn Park merger, said he was looking for something simple on offense this season.
"My assistants and I sat in the clinic and listened," said Markiewicz, who has guided his team to a 7-2 record. "Then I said, 'This is what we're looking for.' As hard as it looks, it's really a simple offense."
Two people who weren't sold on the run-and-shoot initially were the quarterbacks who have flourished. Both were unlikely candidates to excel in the run-and-shoot because neither had much experience throwing the ball.
"I was hesitant because the last three years we had three different coaches," Davis said. "I thought this was another coach with another idea that may not work."
Southwestern moved down to the Maryland Scholastic Association C Conference this season and is 4-3 after last season's 0-9 finish as a member of the B Conference.
Ray, on the other hand, was so unsure of his ability to lead the run-and-shoot offense that he lined up with the wide receivers in practice instead with of the quarterbacks.
"I thought it would be real hard, but it's so easy," said Ray.
Ray broke through with the area's first 300-yard passing game of the season, throwing for 307 yards and three touchdowns against Queen Anne's on Sept. 21. Two weeks later, Davis threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns against St. Mary's. Davis had the area's best game passing on Oct. 19 when he completed 20 of 27 for 407 yards and seven touchdowns in a 59-2 rout of Archbishop Spalding.
But if the run-and-shoot can be so effective, why aren't more coaches using it?
"Unfortunately, in high school, a lot of coaches have been coaching so long that they do things the way they always have," Kaiss said. "There's not a whole lot of change."
Kaiss added, however, that "the run-and-shoot is the future."
And for North County and Southwestern, the future is now.