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Wing-T Takes Flight : Football: Gray installs antiquated offense at North Hollywood and it becomes a modern-day marvel.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Statistics don’t lie.

But sometimes they fib a little.

For two seasons, North Hollywood High was among the City Section football leaders in passing yardage thanks to an explosive run-and-shoot offense.

But the Huskies, 7-14 during that span, weren’t among the leaders where it counts--in the standings.

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Coach Gary Gray, who installed the run-and-shoot in 1993--a year after he was hired--realized it was time to change.

And time to break out the video equipment.

Enthralled by the double-wing offense used by Bloomington, which set a national scoring record last season, Gray filmed all four of the Bruins’ playoff games.

He also contacted Bloomington Coach Don Markham for advice and attended clinics where Markham spoke.

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“Everybody wanted to see how [Mater Dei Coach Bruce] Rollinson worked his fancy, dancy offense,” Gray said of the clinics. “I didn’t care what Rollinson was doing. All I wanted was to hear about Markham and his 19 little gutty guys and how they set the national record.”

Gray, whose Huskies (5-4-1) play host Friday night to Belmont in a first-round game of the City Section 3-A playoffs, realized he had some players of his own--specifically Dante Clay--who might thrive in the double wing.

“I felt I had the top running back in the city at my disposal,” Gray said. “There’s no way I was going to keep him in a one-back set.”

Good call, Coach.

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As a junior wingback, Clay leads City Section players from the region with 1,456 yards in 163 carries.

The Huskies average 249.2 rushing yards a game, second among City teams in the region.

The offense, which has a pair of wingbacks and a fullback, fools defenses with multiple handoffs and counters.

During practice, Gray stands on the defensive side of scrimmage. If he sees the ball as it is handed off, he is not satisfied.

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Deception is key.

“I don’t know how teams can stop it,” Clay said. “The trick is to find the ball first. I’m over here, but the ball might be over there. Or I might have it, but you don’t know that.”

The double wing was put to the ultimate test against Sylmar, the top-seeded team in the 4-A division.

The Spartans allowed a paltry 68 yards rushing a game coming into the teams’ Oct. 27 meeting, but were thrashed for 265 yards on the ground by the Huskies.

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North Hollywood’s offense was very effective on counters.

“It poses a lot of problems for a lot of people because of misdirections,” Sylmar Coach Jeff Engilman said. “A defense has to be very, very disciplined against an offense like that.”

Other teams would concur.

The Huskies had 286 rushing yards against Van Nuys, 270 against Monroe and a whopping 372 against El Camino Real.

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Clay ran for 301 yards against the Conquistadores, but the Huskies played to a 20-20 tie. Clay would have traded every yard in that game for a more important stat--a victory.

“As long as we win, I’m happy,” Clay said. “When I hear, ‘Oh, you didn’t get 100 yards against so-and-so,’ it really doesn’t matter. I’m not here for stats. I’m here to pick up wins.”

So far, so good.


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