LISBON – Ohio (WKBN) – The Lisbon Blue Devils are not only off to a great start in this 2016 football season, but they are doing it in a totally new way.
As coach Jim Tsilimos began his 24th season leading the Devils, most area fans were accustomed to seeing the traditional I or stacked I formations that Lisbon has been known for. But this year that is not what you will see.
“It’s still and adjustment for us running this new offense because we’ve been use to the I for so many years,” senior slot back Jason Thompson said. “But we’re pulling through. We’re figuring out how to work it.”
“There is definitely still a learning curve. There are a lot of new plays we have to know, new running movements. It’s weird,” he added.
The change actually began at the end of last year as they switched from their traditional I offensive formation to the Flexbone, an offense that college football fans will be familiar with when watching Air Force or Navy on Saturday afternoons. The offense is derived from the old time wishbone and features a quarterback under center, a fullback and two slot backs.
The reason for the Blue Devils change in offense? It boiled down to who they had returning from their very successful 9-2 playoff team from last year.
“Because of our offensive personnel,” Devils coach Jim Tsilimos said of the reason for the switch. “There was Kyle Bing and myself last December. Kyle was our offensive coordinator till June when he was promoted to Lisbon’s assistant principal and athletic director. At that time Ed Rankin became our new offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.”
“For us the expectations were that we can still be really good, without them. And we are, still really good without them,” Thompson said of the large number of seniors who graduated last year. “Fans didn’t expect it. But I hope they are starting to see the reality of it. We are not bad.”
“We’ll have to wait and see how the season goes,” Thompson cautioned in how successful this Blue Devils team can be. “But we’re keeping a positive mind.”
“So far so good, but we need to get better in the red zone, inside the 20,” Tsilimos admitted. “(We’re) not as efficient as we should be. Also, we need to be able to throw the ball on our terms.”
After four games the Devils have rushed the ball 151 times for 1,189 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. They have racked up 287 yards in week 1, 206 in week 2, 298 in week 3 and a season high 398 last week against East Palestine. Leading the way is their 5’10, 175 pound junior fullback Cameron Summers with 456 yards and four touchdowns on 43 carries.
“Drive for yards,” Summers said of his role. “Jason is our big rusher, he’s fast, really fast. If I see a hole I hit it and try to get yards. I’m suppose to only get four to five yards per carry.”
“Yeah, I like physical (play),” Summers said with a chuckle. “I get in all the players faces telling them ‘let’s go’ and stuff. If they are down I tell them to get up.”
Summers, who was at United Local before last season, transferred between his freshman and sophomore season. He played in just a couple varsity games for the Eagles in 2014 as a freshman, and then appeared in just a few games for the Devils last year.
Summers was referring to Jason Thompson who has accumulated 358 yards on 40 carries and scored 8 touchdowns. Also adding to the Devils offensive punch is quarterback Colin Sweeney with 190 yards and 3 scores, while Dougie Minor has contributed 134 yards and 3 touchdowns.
“All have done an outstanding job,” Tsilimos said proudly. “Our goal each week is to involve four to six players in the offense. It puts pressure on the defense to defend the whole field.”
The Devils will get to put their offense to the test this Friday night when they host the undefeated South Range Raiders. The Raiders are currently one of the top defensive teams in the ITCL, so it should be a match up of strength versus strength when they kickoff on our “Game of the Week”.