First-year coach winging it at Briarfield

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2008

LAKE PROVIDENCE — A new coach means a new system for Briarfield Academy. Indiana transplant Ben Durham takes over the program after former coach Lance Prine left to take the headmaster’s position at Sharkey-Issaquena Academy.

Durham comes to Briarfield from South Terre Haute High School. In five seasons at two smaller Indiana high schools, he was 26-26 but did earn coach of the year honors in 2006.

The big change for the Rebels will be Durham’s implementation of the Wing-T offense. For the past two seasons, the Rebels ran the spread option. It worked well for a 24-5 record and an appearance in the MPSA Class A title game in 2006.

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But two key cogs in that offense are gone in receivers Sam Minsky and Jon Jon Taylor. Taylor is now a freshman at Delta State while Minsky will run track at Louisiana-Monroe.

“We lost two good wide receivers and I think the Wing-T offense fits the personnel better,” Durham said. “We’ve moved Jeffrey Graham from quarterback to fullback. One good thing about the Wing-T is that it gives our linemen angles to block, which could work to our advantage.”

Graham, who completed 96 of 192 passes for 1,743 yards and 24 TDs, doesn’t mind the change in becoming the team’s primary ground carrier.

As a runner, Graham gained an additional 893 yards on 169 carries.

“It’s a different offense, but we look for the same type of results as any other year. It all depends if we come together as a team,” Graham said.

Senior Nathan Brown will be the Rebels’ wingback while junior Blake Lovell will be the tailback.

While the Rebels return just two starting offensive linemen, Durham feels it’s still a team strength.

Juniors Chad Toney (6-1, 190) and Josh Hutchinson (6-1, 240) will be counted on heavily. Jacob Kelly (6-0, 225) and sophomore Jonathan Tanksley (6-1, 240) add size. Brad McIntyre will be at guard.

“Brad is going to be our pulling guard,” Durham said with a laugh.

Defensively, the Rebels will have a new look as well.

“We’ll play a 3-3 stack,” Durham said.

Graham anchors it at middle linebacker. Gabe Lensing is a returning starter at strong safety. Hopkins will be at free safety.

Hutchinson will start at the nose while Toney and McIntyre are the defensive ends. Lawson Keene will be one of the other linebackers.

Durham said he’s spent much of his time getting familiar with Briarfield’s opponents.

“I’ve been watching film and it appears Deer Creek and Humphreys should be pretty good,” he said.