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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Use your speed any way you can

Speed is a valuable intangible in any sport, especially football.

If an offense’s skill players are quicker than the defense’s skill players, a team has a measurable advantage.

The sport has become innovative at all levels, including high school. Teams are finding ways to incorporate speed well before the ball is snapped.

Coaches call it playing fast. They want to put a defense on its heels before actually putting it on its heels.

Lake City brought playing fast to the region in 2006 when the Timberwolves captured a 5A state championship, finishing 12-0. The last four years Ferris has advanced to the semifinals with two straight state final appearances capped by a 4A state title and 14-0 season last year.

Coeur d’Alene picked up the theme last year, and the result was a state title.

Mead is installing a new offense, the Wing T, this fall to take advantage of a speedy team.

Ferris coach Jim Sharkey said he and other coaches don’t have a secret recipe when it comes to speed and how they employ it.

“When it comes to speed, a lot of it is just natural,” Sharkey said. “You’re not going to make a slow kid fast.”

Still, what Ferris and other schools do in the weight room has an intended goal.

“It’s all geared toward being faster,” Sharkey said. “Any drill we do is based on trying to get explosive power, speed and quickness.”

Lake City coach Van Troxel is also a firm believer that the proper approach in the weight room will bear fruit on the field. But he also is an assistant sprints/relays coach in track where if any of his football players, especially skill athletes, aren’t involved in a spring sport then he insists they’re on the track with him.

“That’s why I do track,” Troxel said. “You’ve got to get your football players to run. I learned that growing up. My dad (Ed Troxel) won like four state track titles at Borah. If you played football for him you ran track.”

Troxel believes running track is every bit as important to commitment in the weight room.

“Running technique is a learned behavior,” Troxel said. “The more times you rep, the more times your body mechanics run smoother and quicker and your body is less labored with the correct mechanics.”

Troxel said there’s a difference in sprint speed and football speed.

“Fast speed doesn’t come by 100 percent exertion,” he said. “It’s by moving your body parts faster and smoother than the other guy. You don’t have any muscles in your elbows and knees but they’re extremely important to form and speed.”

Coeur d’Alene coach Shawn Amos also coaches sprints in the spring. He, too, recruits football players to track.

Last year, Amos overhauled his team’s offense, employing a no-huddle look.

“We want to set the tempo,” Amos said.

Every CdA player wore a wrist band listing plays. A coach signaled a number and the players ran the corresponding play.

CdA is tweaking things again this fall.

“We’ll be better at being a no-huddle team,” Amos said. “We’re doing some things that we think will make us more efficient. The first thing we’re doing is getting rid of our wrist bands. We used them last year as a transition to no huddle.”

CdA will signal in a play call and the Vikings will have seven seconds to get to the line of scrimmage. Amos wants his team to snap the ball in under 10 seconds.

“Overall we want a five-second improvement on how fast we get a play off,” Amos said.

The goal is to keep defenses on their heels and from being able to substitute freely.

Troxel has changed his team’s defensive scheme to adjust to the no-huddle look. The Timberwolves are going from a 4-3 base to a 3-4. He wants more linebackers who are generally quicker than down linemen on the field.

Ultimately, Troxel said, his defensive players will all be standing when the ball is snapped. No more three-point stances for the linemen.

Even if a team has average speed, it can appear faster by using the no huddle.

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