Yesterday I finally made it to the Sandcrab Nation and watched Port Lavaca Calhoun practice. A few posts ago I wrote about how different coaching philosophies can all be successful and Coach Whitaker’s program proves that point. Port Lavaca does some things I haven’t seen at any of the schools I visited, but the system is obviously an outstanding fit for this school and community. The Sandcrabs were down before Coach Whitaker took over in 2005. In his first year, Calhoun finished with a 2-8 record, but since that time they have a record of 58-17 and have made the 4A playoffs 6 straight years.
Two factors make the PLV program unique among the 11 I’ve watched so far;
1) While most of the state has embraced the passing game in a big way, the Sandcrabs rely on a complex option offense where a quarterback rarely throws the ball. In 2011, the quarterback threw for 315 yards while rushing for over 1600. Part of their offensive philosophy is to spread the touches equally between the 4 backs they use on every play. Last season they became the first team in Texas to have 4 1000 yard rushers in a single season. The variety of options and formations they run is very impressive. Their goal is to create situations with formation where a defense can only stop 2 of 3 options the QB has and for the QB to recognize what’s available and exploit it. When they do pass its very effective because the defense is so focused on stopping the run.
I had always been a little scared of relying on an option attack because it puts so much of a premium on having a certain type of quarterback and then makes him the target of opposing defenses. I’ve seen good option teams fall apart when the QB got hurt. Coach Whitaker’s system addresses this possible weakness with the second point.
2) They are along among the big schools I’m watching in that all their players work both sides of the ball. The entire coaching staff works one side and the players rotate through both offensive and defensive individual drills. In a perfect situation, only a few players will see action on both sides of the field, but the sandcrabs are prepared if someone goes down. 4 players are prepared to step in at quarterback, 4 at fullback and 6 at the two slot positions. They all get reps every day and play in a system where substitution at every position is routine.
3) Not unique, but very important is the emphasis the Sandcrabs put on the weightroom. The first thing Coach Whitaker did when he got the job was lobby for a new weightroom and the facility they built is beautiful. The kids at Port Lavaca and not big and while their skill kids do have some speed, they will not win by their natural athleticism. To be successful they need the weightroom. Sub 200 lb. players who squat 400-600 and bench 250-350 seem to be the norm. These are outstanding numbers.
Port Lavaca Calhoun is very young, with only one returning offensive starter and 6 on defense. But they’ve built a great tradition and the qualities that got them to the playoffs 6 years in a row (Good coaching, a great work ethic, outstanding community support and a solid system) are still present. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what the town is like when I return for homecoming week. I’ve been told by many that the support in Port Lavaca is amazing.