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New wing ‘O’ better suits QB Gordon

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Heady coach Willie Herrera keeps his players together before a break.


POSTED August 29, 2013 10:50 p.m.

Isaiah Gordon doesn’t want to be known as “Teejay’s little brother.”

Teejay quarterbacked the last East Union team to make the playoffs in 2009 — the Lancers’ first appearance since 1992.

“My brother was the star here and was hyped up,” said Isaiah, a first-year varsity senior and EU’s current signal caller. “Now that I’m here, I don’t feel like I have to be just as good as him, but I just want to prove a point, I guess you can say.”

That point? He is not his brother. And this is not his brother’s offense.

There is no bitterness in what he is saying at all. He just wants the comparisons to end. Isaiah will have his chance to make a name for himself as the conductor of East Union’s new wing offense.

In 2008, then-head coach Mike James and his staff installed a spread offense to take advantage of Teejay’s skill set and the athletic abilities of those around him.

“He was perfect for it,” East Union head coach Willie Herrera, defensive coordinator during the Teejay Era. “(Isaiah) doesn’t like to hear the comparisons with his brother, but they are two different types of players. Teejay is an extraordinary athlete. Isaiah is not as athletic but has a better arm and is more physical. He’s definitely ready to lead the offense.”

The 2012 season marked the end of the spread at East Union — for now, perhaps. The Lancers are coming off a 1-9 season in which they used two quarterbacks who were better suited for another type of offense.

“I don’t think the spread fit our personnel,” said senior Jeremy Turner, an undersized but hard-nosed left tackle. “I like (the wing) offense because you don’t have to be the biggest guy to take on the biggest guys.”

He and the rest of the Lancers did just that during their four-day, three-night stay at the Lake Tahoe Football Camp. There, they were pitted against Capital Christian (10-2 in 2012) of Sacramento. The Cougars are led by 6-foot-6, 280-pound defensive end Nifae Lealao, a two-sport star (basketball) who has received offers from the likes of Boise State, Cal, Oregon and Stanford.

 “I just cut (blocked) him the whole time, but that was cool,” Turner said. “In the future when I watch him on TV, I can say I played against that guy.”

The smaller Lancers got the better of Capital Christian behind its revamped offense and swarming defense.

“It’s going pretty good,” Isaiah Gordon said. “We’ve worked really hard on it and had some success with it at the (Lake Tahoe) camp. We won the championship up there and we’re hoping to carry that over into the season.”

Herrera said the reason for the shift in offense was to “put our guys in the best position to win a game. Looking at our guys coming up, we did not have the athletes to run (the spread) offense right now. That’s not to say we don’t have athletes because we do, but we had to step back and look at what kind of kids we have year in and year out at this school and build an offense on that.”

Wing offenses are traditionally run-first and allow for smaller linemen to have success, as they rely more on pulling, trapping, double teaming, angles and deception than sheer size and brute strength. Center Rocky Perez (6-0, 225) is the team’s lone returning starter, and tight end Clay Cuneo (6-4, 225) has worked his way into the starting lineup, as well as a leadership role, and will be key as a blocker.

“We’re not going to wow anyone with our size, but I’ll take somebody like Jeremy Turner (5-7, 160) every time,” Herrera said.

Former quarterback Lucas Garcia leads the receiving corps, which includes Eddie Daube and tight end Issac Danhoff.

“I like all of our receivers,” Gordon said. “There isn’t a specific one I look for.”

Victor Lopez (5-10, 195) will carry the load from the backfield. A standout running back in the lower levels, Lopez has bulked up and improved his speed to be the guy. He enjoyed some success in limited action last year, averaging 6.4 yards per carry and finishing with 185 yards and two touchdowns.

Taariq Davis gives EU a change-of-pace back with breakaway speed. Jose Maltez (5-9, 170) is pushing Lopez for carries. Andrew Ortiz is also competing for touches, and fullbacks Angel Roblero (6-2, 215) and Quintin Caasey (5-10, 185) will get theirs for tough yards.

“We have a handful of guys who can bring something specific,” Herrera said.

Herrera isn’t pigeonholing the team’s new system, preferring to simply call it a “wing offense” since it will line up in variations of the wing-T and the double wing. And while deep with running backs, the Lancers aren’t going to be a predominantly running team. Gordon is also an option to contribute in the running game.

“It will be based on who we’re playing and what we’re seeing,” Herrera said. “It’s a game-by-game type of thing. If we need to throw on every play that’s what we’ll do. If we need to run 100 percent of the time that’s what we’re going to do.”

Gordon is on board with whatever the game plan dictates. He’s not out to match or surpass his brother’s stats and accomplishments. His goal is simple.

“Win a championship,” he said. “We all have this mindset that we’re going to be good this year. We’re not listening to what people are saying on the outside, just focusing on what we need to do. If we can maintain that focus in practice and in games, good things will happen.”

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