There is no way to take an analytical look at Spartanburg’s offense and not include a play involving Tavien Feaster.
The junior running back is one of the best in the country, a state champion in the 100 and 200-meter sprints, and the catalyst for the Vikings’ run to the state championship this season. Slowing Feaster – because stopping him appears to be close to impossible – will be crucial for the York Cougars when they face Spartanburg in the 4A Division II state championship game Saturday at noon.
“Just because 28 (Feaster) is on the field, doesn’t mean he’s gonna get it,” said York coach Bobby Carroll. “But pretty much when he’s out there, that ball is gonna touch his hands.”
While Spartanburg’s bread-and-butter Feaster plays include a toss sweep, an inside hand-off, and a screen pass in long yardage situations, one of their home run plays designed for the junior is the wheel post.
Truthfully, any play scripted for Feaster has the potential to be a home run play.
But the 6-foot, 190-pound back averages 22.5 yards per catch this season – he has 41 grabs this fall – and a big reason why is the wheel post, a play that Spartanburg showed off when it scrimmaged York back in August.
On that particular iteration of the play, Feaster lined up in the backfield to the left of fellow junior, quarterback Austin Scott. Upon the snap, the receiver lined up left of the offensive line immediately ran a slant toward the hash marks in the middle of the field, taking the defensive back inside with him and also picking, or at least occupying, the linebacker/spur from releasing into the flats to track Feaster.
“They run double slants with a wheel, and your (defensive backs) want to bite on those slants, and it leaves that wheel route open up the sideline,” said Carroll.
As Carroll explained, the receiver’s move inside left Feaster with a gaping channel to run down the sideline. Sometimes he runs about three-quarters speed out of the backfield, hitting full speed at the numbers – the point where he normally catches the defensive back or linebacker tracking him off guard with his burst – before sprinting down the sideline. Against York, Feaster took off at full speed, taking full advantage of the “inadvertent” pick set by the blocking receiver to get ahead.
Fortunately for the Cougars defense, the linebacker/spur assigned to follow Feaster out of the backfield did a good job of weeding through the receiver and chasing down the Vikings standout, who is also a competent over-the-shoulder pass-catcher. Spartanburg picked up about 30 yards on the play, but it didn’t go for six points as it so often did later in the regular season.
Feaster running the wheel post is just one play in a Spartanburg offense full of tricks. York linebackers, coached by Carroll and Zac Snyder, spent a good portion of Tuesday’s practice defending deep balls down the sideline because of the wheel post.
“We’re just gonna rep it over and over and over and over, until we think we’ve got it stopped,” said Carroll, shaking his head. “That’s all you can do.”