When notified at the end of last school year that the Empire High Raven Athletic Program was moving out of 3A and all the way up to 5A, there was a bit of shock, disbelief and a lot of apprehension on what would lie ahead for 2018 and beyond.
Now that reality has set in, the Raven football team has embraced the challenge in a very positive way.
Head Coach W.T. Jeffries has taken the “bull by the horns” and is excited about the positives that being in 5A has to offer. More exposure and a better chance of being scouted by colleges for the players. Stronger competition and playing against bigger players.
The only concern Jeffries has is a possible lack of depth compared to the teams that have been in 5A for years. There are only two football team at a Empire, so junior varsity players must be able to fill in case of injuries during the season.
This team will not be intimidated. Respect of your opponents abilities, but absolutely no fear. That mentality will carry the Ravens each game throughout the entire season. The coaching staff has told the players, “play every game as if it were your last.”
The Athletic Department has prepared concerned parents on the jump into 5A and to look at the track record of other schools that have made similar jumps.
The other side of the coin, the student bodies at Andrada and Empire have both embraced the change and are excited about the upcoming year in sports.
The Ravens will still run their base offense in the Wing T, but this year they’ll add a special wrinkle and introduce the Veer Offense made popular by UCLA in the 19070’s.
Both schemes will cause problems for their opponents because both offenses are exclusive to Empire and other 5A teams will have to prepare for two different offensive looks they’ll only see once a season.
With the Veer Offense especially, defending it is all about your assignments. One defensive missed assignment can lead to a huge yardage gain or touchdown.
Their Wing T Offense is about ground control and time consumption. If run correctly and efficiently, it’s not out of the questions to run out the clock with one offensive possession in the quarter.
Jeffries is a master in using what talent he has and formulating a perfect offense and defense to utilize that talent. Just as the Military Academies in the NCAA run a similiar offense, as all their opponents know, this game is going to be a “dogfight,” and that’s exactly what Empire is counting on.
Assistant Coach Dave Ivey pointed out that even though they lost five talented plauers off last years squad, this team has an incredible amount of cohesion. The feeling is also mirrored by the other coaches and more importantly the players that, “we will be a playoff team.”
Don’t let the Wing T or Veer fool you. These Ravens have speed to burn on the edges and Senior quarterback Alex Verdugo has a big arm.
With all those variables, the 2018 Empire Ravens will bring heart, soul and effort every game and will be very exciting to watch wherever they take the field.
Make sure to watch the Raven Seniors that were interviewed on the 520 Sports Talk Facebook Page.