High School Sports

'Air' to the throne

Northwestern coach Jimmy Wallace leads practice recently. The Trojans 'Air Raid' offense will be in hands of quarterback Justin Worley after the graduation of last season's star QB Will King.
Northwestern coach Jimmy Wallace leads practice recently. The Trojans 'Air Raid' offense will be in hands of quarterback Justin Worley after the graduation of last season's star QB Will King.

Kyle Richardson doesn't talk just to hear himself.

When he says something, people stop and listen. So it didn't come as a surprise Friday when Richardson said without hesitation: "We have a huge task ahead of us replacing Will King. He was suited for what we wanted to do last year. He ran our offense the way it's supposed to be run.''

Richardson is Northwestern High School's offensive coordinator. Last year was his first, and he brought a new offensive attack to Trojanland, one he learned from former Kentucky coach Hal Mumme. It produced a 12-2 record, a region title and a performance by a quarterback never seen in these parts.

It's called the "Air Raid'' and that about sums it up. It's a wide-open attack that depends on receivers running their routes precisely because the quarterback's job is to get rid of the ball as soon as possible.

King, in his second year starting at quarterback, was the perfect man for the job. He set many school single-season passing records, including most yards (3,395) and touchdown passes (41).

But King graduated and signed a scholarship with Furman. Richardson wasted little time, or words, when deciding on King's replacement.

"After Will took his final snap, I looked at Justin Worley and said, 'Now, you're the starter.'"

Worley's not hard to pick out. When the Trojans were walking up the hill to the locker room after their first practice Friday, a Northwestern assistant coach said he wasn't hard to find. Just look for one of the tallest kids on the team.

Size is one of several differences between Worley, a sophomore, and King.

Worley is 6-foot-4. King was listed at 6-0, but he's closer to 5-10.

King had the ability to scramble. He added 566 yards and 5 TDs rushing. Worley, Richardson said, is a drop-back passer and he wants him to stay in the pocket on as many plays as possible.

And there are the arms. King was very accurate with his passes and most of them were in the short and intermediate ranges. Worley, Richardson said, has a cannon and is getting better with his accuracy every day.

"Justin's our No. 1 guy going into the season,'' Richardson said. "He'll be a big piece of the puzzle and like any program, we can't think about last season because we have to move on.''

As best as Worley can remember, he took 20 to 30 snaps last year in the role as King's closer. Worley passed for 128 yards and a touchdown last season.

Worley is not without competition. Sophomore Stuart Hunt and freshman Tyler Williams are battling for the back-up spot. But Worley was chosen from the flock and anointed the new King.

"When coach Richardson told me I was the starter, I really didn't feel any pressure,'' Worley said. "I learned the system last year as a back-up, and when you look at all the great wide receivers we have coming back, my job will be to get them the ball and let them make plays.

"Coach Richardson has put other things you can do out of our offense, and I'm fine that he doesn't want me running the ball. But if I have to run or if coach Richardson wants me to run, I'm glad to do it.''

Back to catch the ball is a talented crew of wide-outs who are just as vital to the offense as the quarterback. The group includes Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarrett Neely, Labris Adams, Nigel Dixon and Julian Patton.

Neely is Northwestern's do-it-all out of the backfield. He's the tailback when the Trojans go to the one-back set and will line up at wide receiver when Northwestern goes with an empty backfield.

Last season, Neely ran for 674 yards and 13 TDs, caught 77 passes for 930 yards and 10 TDs, and completed three passes for two TDs.

On short-down situations, Neely is often used on swing passes out of the backfield to get the needed yards. And he's been known to break more than a few for bigger gains, even touchdowns.

"What I've noticed this year is that Justin is getting a lot better at looking off receivers and finding the open man,'' Neely said. "That's important in this offense and we have a lot of faith in him.

"What I like about what we do is the quarterback is asked to spread the ball around, not just look for one receiver all the time. The way we spread the field, it's hard for defenses to key on one person. You can't pick on one or two because all of us are threats.''

When not practicing or competing with the Trojans in 7-on-7 tournaments, Worley throws 50-60 passes a day, even when he doesn't have anyone to catch the ball.

Friday was the first of many practices before Northwestern opens the season Aug. 29 against Goose Creek on the new field turf at District Three Stadium. So far, so good, but the learning is never done in football.

The key is to get everyone on the same page as soon as possible and work out any kinks in the non-region portion of the schedule.

Adams said not to worry, that Worley is ready to get going.

"He throws the ball well and he's the kind of player that you can see improving and getting better each day,'' Adams said. "He's a good quarterback and with coach Richardson wanting him to stay in the pocket, it will give us more opportunities to catch passes. That's what all receivers want.''

Aug. 29 GOOSE CREEK, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. at Spartanburg, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 12 at Rock Hill, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 19 CHESTER, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. at Lancaster, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 3 SOUTH POINTE, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 10 at Nation Ford, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 17 CLOVER, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 24 at York, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 31 FORT MILL, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 7 GAFFNEY, 7:30 p.m.

Home games in bold, caps

• The Trojans' 2008 schedule • 4D

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