Lee County star running back and Herald Dynamite Dozen selection Kenneth Hurley, left, breaks through a wall of defenders during a game earlier this year against Dougherty. Between Hurley’s running and the Trojans’ passing game, no team in Georgia has been able to keep up with Lee’s fast-paced offense this season. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
LEESBURG — There are no lines and there’s no waiting at Lee County, where the Trojans have given a whole new meaning to the term fast and furious.
These kids think the word huddle is something out of the Jurassic Era, and believe in driving the car with no brakes and no speed limit.
That’s life at Lee, where the hurry-up offense is a way of life.
“I love this offense,’’ said Kenneth Hurley, Lee’s quick-hit running back who has gained 782 yards in just five games.
But it’s not just Hurley darting past everyone on his way to the end zone, it’s a revved-up, no-huddle, spread-the-field and spread-the-wealth offense that has ignited Lee County’s 5-0 start this season. The Trojans aren’t just 5-0, they’re ranked in the top three offenses in Georgia, averaging 47.2 points per game, and ranked in at least one Top 10 poll in the state.
The Trojans have never started a season at 6-0, but that could change when they open Region 1-AAAAA play at home on Friday night against Hardaway.
It’s not just the way they start at Lee, it’s the way they finish.
“It’s the tempo,’’ said left guard Chance Greene, a senior and two-year starter on the offensive line. “We go at a fast tempo all the time, and you can see in third and fourth quarters that the other team is ready to quit. Especially on extra points. They just stand there. They don’t even come off the ball. They just use the time to rest.’’
It’s non-stop at Lee.
“Yeah,’’ said quarterback Stephen Collier, who shares the QB spot with Matt Mears. “The no-huddle wears teams out. You (look across the line) in the third and fourth quarter and see that they are worn out. They’re done.’’
The fast pace also catches teams off guard.
“I look at the other team’s defensive backs and they’re trying to get their reads, and we’re ready to go,’’ Collier said. “The fact they’re not ready gives us a big advantage.’’
The tempo and fast pace has taken its toll on teams and players. After one of the games, the trainer from the losing team told Lee County’s trainer that six of his players threw up during the game because of exhaustion.
Lee never slows down, and that just wears teams down.
“We were playing one of the Albany schools, and in the fourth quarter one of their DBs came up to me and said, ‘Can y’all please go huddle up?’ ” receiver Casey Hightower said. “I thought it was funny and said, ‘Not today.’ ”
Not today and not tomorrow. Lee lives and dies with the no-huddle spread.
“We feel like it has paid off,’’ said coach Dean Fabrizio, who inserted the no-huddle spread when he came to Lee County four years ago from Peach County, where he was an assistant. Fabrizio ran the Wing-T when he was a head coach at Deland in Florida, but he felt Lee needed something special — something unique.
Welcome to the spread.
“We had run elements of it at Peach County, and when I came here Mike Chastain (who later became Lee’s offensive coordinator) came with me, and we felt in this situation this was the best offense for us to run,’’ Fabrizio said. “We weren’t going to power over anyone, and they hadn’t had a lot of success. We felt this was the best offense for our situation.’’
Fabrizio did his homework.
“We visited with a lot of people,’’ said Fabrizio, who spent time learning about the spread at Troy University and Lassiter High and also attended spread-guru Tony Franklin’s clinic on the spread in Nashville, Tenn.
Fabrizio said the key is commitment.
“We sell out to the spread offense,’’ he said. “We don’t dabble in anything else. We’re committed to it. The tempo we play at is a big part of it. We stress playing fast, and that tends to give us a big advantage. And we try to get a lot of kids involved, attacking all areas of the field. Even though (Hurley) is having a great year, we’re still able to spread the ball out so teams can’t key on him.”
Lee had only five winning seasons before Fabrizio, but after the spread showed up four years ago, the Trojans went 7-4 in his second year at the school, and are now off to one of the best starts in school history this season. Chastain is now at Veterans High School and Mike Harville is the OC, but Harville also believes in the spread and the fast-paced tempo. Just listen to Fabrizio and Harville at practice.
The over-under on the times they shout, “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,’’ could be a combined 1,000.
“Coach (Fabrizio) must say it over 500 times during practice,’’ Hightower said. “And coach Harville says it just as much.’’
They say it at practice, where the kids fly up to the line of scrimmage over and over all day, and the frenetic pace pays off on Friday nights.
“Because of the way we go (non-stop) at practice, we’re in better condition,’’ Greene said. “Kids who come here from other teams can’t believe how much harder our practices are.’’
And it’s non-stop at the games. Just watch Fabrizio on the sidelines, shouting, “Attack! Attack! Attack,’’ as he moves his arm up and down like the Braves’ tomahawk chop.
The kids love it.
“I don’t know what they ran before we got here, but I’m happy we’re running this offense,’’ Greene said.
Hurley added: “The tempo makes it fun. We have that confidence (with this offense). Every team has confidence at the beginning of the game, but then we come out and hit them in the mouth.’’
The fast pace makes it tough for opponents even before they play Lee County.
“Teams really don’t see an offense like the one we run,’’ Collier said. “You only have a week to prepare for it, and what we have to offer in this offense is too much for a week. There’s just so much stuff we can do. We have weapons all over the field.’’
Hurley’s season is an indication of just how good the spread works, because it’s designed to open up the passing lanes.
“Some defenses don’t realize we have a good running game,’’ Hightower said. “They’re so busy worrying about the spread. And the defense is so spread out against us that just gives (Hurley) more holes and we’re making blocks down field for him.’’
Lee’s receivers pride themselves in blocking downfield and arguably do a better job of it than any team in the area.
“We take pride in that,’’ Hightower said. “You don’t see many high school receivers blocking downfield.’’
They’re blocking up front, too.
“I’d say this is the best offensive line we’ve had since I’ve been here,’’ Fabrizio said of a line that consists of Jesse Freeman, Gavin Lee, freshman Chris Barnes, Robert Hatcher, two-year starter Shabari Jones and Greene.
“We’re running the ball a lot better than we have, and this year we’ve been able to add the quarterback run to our offense, because we have two guys who can play quarterback. We couldn’t do that before,’’ Fabrizio said. “This is also the most efficient we’ve ever been, and this is the fastest we’ve played.’’
All those factors have made this year’s offense one of the most explosive in Georgia. Can it produce a region title? Lee has won only one region title in its history.
“When you play fast, all the time, it limits you because you can’t play players both ways,’’ Fabrizio said. “Playing one game with this offense is like playing a game and a third of another game. And playing fast puts a lot of pressure on your defense. In an average high school game, the defense has to face 10 to 12 series, and some nights it’s 8 to 10. Our defense faced 15 series last week.
“The other thing is that if you have a bad night or have a lot of turnovers, you run the chance of being blown out. We’ve had that happen over the years. But we think the rewards are greater than the risks.’’
Everyone in Lee is glad Fabrizio and the spread showed up — and sped things up for the Trojans.
“He brought confidence to Lee County, and he changed the Lee County atmosphere about football,’’ Hightower said.
How far can they go?
No one knows just yet, but one thing is certain — they will get there in a hurry.