RED SPRINGS — Head coach George Coltharp calls them his Level 2 plays.
Red Springs’ short and precise passing game may be designed to get the ball out quickly to athletes in space, but intermediate routes are sometimes needed depending on down and distance.
As a junior on the verge of his 24th consecutive start at quarterback, Red Springs’ Blake Greene has mastered the art of throwing to a spot rather than a receiver.
And it’s made the Red Devils even more deadly when they have the football.
“I look at a spot in the grass and try to hit it. That’s the main part of this offense,” Greene said. “You don’t read coverages or defensive players, you read grass. That’s what Coach C tells us. Find the open grass. If it’s not there, tuck it and run.”
For opposing defensive coordinators, Greene on the move might not be the ideal solution.
Sliding the pocket closer to the action on passing plays is part of the scheme, but Greene is especially potent when given free rein by the coaching staff to move the chains with his arm or feet, accounting for 89 touchdowns in 23 games since Coltharp arrived at Red Springs.
Derived from Hal Mumme’s passing attack during his days as Kentucky’s head coach, Coltharp’s Air Raid plays to Greene’s strengths. During Mumme’s four-year stint in the Southeastern Conference, Mumme’s Wildcats set several school, SEC and NCAA records with a mobile, strong-armed quarterback. Heisman finalist Tim Couch, UK’s signal caller at the time, enjoyed an illustrious collegiate career and was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Browns in 1999.
This summer, the Red Springs coaching staff had an impromptu visit with Mumme during a football luncheon at Davidson College to further evaluate what plays would work and which ones wouldn’t with Greene under center. Coltharp patterns his offensive strategy around Mumme’s ideology and picked the passing guru’s brain for his “favorite” plays.
Mumme’s son, Matt, is Davidson’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
“It was a pretty neat deal to sit down and listen to the father of this offense talk to us,” Coltharp said. “We went over a handful of plays that were kind of his bread and butter in college. His go-to calls so to speak. We only talked for about 20 minutes, but we’ve tried to incorporate some of that conversation into this season.”
Davidson head coach Tripp Merritt, the event’s organizer, knows the Red Springs community well. His grandparents owned Merritt’s Grocery on East 4th Avenue.
“He singled us out toward the end of the luncheon in a room of about 40 coaches,” Coltharp said. “That was kind of neat.”
Coltharp says Greene’s maturation into a well-developed quarterback has allowed the offense to take more chances in the passing game.
One of several calls intended to move the chains or reach the end zone, Greene’s ability to make secondary throws has provided the offense with a new element of surprise. Zach Jones, a lanky 6-foot-3 target at tight end along with Zach Leach, the county’s leading receiver in the slot, gives the Red Devils two reliable weapons who are experts at finding ways to get open.
C.J. McGeachey, Brandon Smith and Jameson Baker provide Greene with additional outlets at picking up yards in chunks. On third-and-long situations in recent wins over Fairmont and South Robeson, Greene hit McGeachey in stride on wheel routes behind the secondary for long touchdowns.
“We were running the Level 1, short passing stuff last year, but when we put that corner route into play, watching Blake throw it got us pretty giddy,” Coltharp said. “We spend maybe 20 minutes a practice just working on the long routes and throwing to a spot on the field. Blake is night and day better than he was at the start of last season.”
The emphatic 46-10 victory over the two-time defending conference champion Golden Tornadoes was personal to Greene whose been criticized for not showing up in big games by his coach and his peers. He uses it as motivation, even if his numbers speak for themselves.
“Any decent quarterback is going to have good numbers out of the spread, in my opinion,” Greene said. “That’s what a successful spread boils down to, a decent quarterback and a good (offensive) line. I try to block everything people say about me out of the picture.
“I think there’s plenty of great football players in the county, but some might not be in the right system or have the right coach.”
Equipped with a more expansive playbook, Greene’s numbers through the air this season have been staggering. He’s developed a deep post, the fade route and has nearly perfected Red Springs’ patented bubble screen. Greene is 239 yards away from eclipsing the 3,000-yard mark this season and leads all 1A quarterbacks with 36 touchdown passes.
And when the Red Devils need a stop on third down in a late-game situation, he hovers at free safety.
“He’s one of those guys that comes around every now and then that is pretty special,” Coltharp said. “He’s a good talent, but even more than that, he’s a great kid and you’re not going to out work him. He’s a solid student and he’s a great teammate.”