Special to the Daily Sun Todd Wills
Blooming Grove —
The Blooming Grove Lions can hear the talk. Their entire offense left town with Jayd Kirby, a freshman tight end at Navarro.
Not so fast, they say.
The Lions have their top skill position players back, and junior quarterback Tyler Ellis is more than ready to take over for Kirby after playing receiver and kicking and punting for Blooming Grove.
“If anything, we will be better,” said Tyler Morris, a senior running back who rushed for 564 yards last season. “It’s not like he is stepping in as quarterback and isn’t comfortable in what he’s doing. Tyler is ready.”
Ellis has so many good players to rely on. Senior running back Tyler Whiteside had 358 yards rushing and 368 yards receiving last season. Senior wide receiver Brandon Hayes had 356 yards rushing and 369 yards receiving. Morris also had 183 receiving yards on 15 receptions.
The offensive line has experience. Tackle Hank Seabolt and guard Taud Taylor combine for 650 pounds of beef on the right side of the line. Eric Balderas and Dustin Raxter, both seniors, are three-year starters. The Lions are excited about sophomore center Dalton Shastid.
So yes, Kirby left with almost 3,000 yards of total offense, including 1,800 rushing yards.
But Lions coach Gary Grubbs has faith that the offense will still be explosive.
“This year we’ll have more success throwing the ball,” Grubbs said. “People won’t be able to load up in the tackle box. Tyler Morris, Travis and Brandon can all make plays.”
The Lions’ offense last season had Kirby as the focal point. They ran mostly power and isolation plays for the 6-2, 205-pound quarterback who was more of a runner than a passer.
Ellis, who is 5-9 and 155 pounds, can run, but he’s also comfortable throwing the football. The Lions plan is to be more uptempo and use their depth to their advantage. Blooming Grove has 31 players on the varsity roster.
“We can be a little more diverse,” Grubbs said. “We have good team speed and we are bigger and stronger. We have only three guys playing both ways. Our guys stuck together and we have good depth.”
Ellis, a junior, is a great story. An excellent club soccer player, he almost moved away from Blooming Grove to focus on that sport. But he decided to stay before his freshman year and handled the kicking duties for the Lions.
He played receiver last season and caught 13 passes for 314 yards. He was an honorable mention all-state kicker.
“He’s the best kicker I’ve had in 27 years,” Grubbs said.
Ellis has grown up quickly in the Lions’ offense during two-a-days. He can make his reads and get the ball to the right spots. The goal is to get the ball in space to Whiteside, Morris and Hays.
“It’s a lot easier,” Ellis said of running the offense because he spent time at receiver. “I know a lot more of what each guy is going to do.”
He knows Hays at 5-foot-11, 160 pounds has the most pure speed. Whiteside, at 5-9, 165-pounds, uses his strength to punish defenders. Morris, who is 5-10, 200 pounds, is an explosive and also intelligent runner.
“This year we have a lot of options,” Whiteside said. “Everyone is more familiar with their position on the offense. We can put skill guys in any position and they will know what to do. We’re in an offense that’s going to make us a lot better.”