Friday Night Heroes: West Rowan's Louis Kraft and Jack Gallagher
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 30, 2011
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — West Rowan tailback Dinkin Miller motored for a long touchdown on the first snap of Friday’s playoff game at Burns, but one of those annoying yellow flags made the Falcons line up and do it again.
A few minutes later, West faced fourth-and-goal at the Burns 1. Falcon fans crossed fingers. Burns fans got noisy.
It was the most critical play all evening, and the Falcons went with a two-tight end set they call “Canadian.”
“We call it that because they play 12-man football in Canada,” head coach Scott Young explained.
The Falcons didn’t violate the rules. They still had 11 on the field, but in a sense they gained an extra blocker by adding a second tight end at the point of attack. Reserve tight end Jack Gallagher, a junior, joins veteran Louis Kraft in the lineup when the Falcons go “Canadian.”
Quarterback Zay Laster carried the ball into the end zone on that pivotal fourth down. Gallagher provided one of the key blocks.
“I got a pretty good block on the linebacker — No. 21 —” Gallagher said. “And Zay ran right behind me.”
With that early touchdown in the books, West was on its way to a 33-7 romp.
“I’m sure a lot of people didn’t think we’d score on that fourth-down play,” Kraft said. “But we put it in there, and when we did, the air went right out of that stadium.”
Running the football successfully is often simple math. If there are eight defenders in the box, it’s hard to run because tacklers outnumber blockers. If there are nine defenders in the box, it gets really dicey.
West faces eight and even nine in the box routinely, but it’s found ways to tweak the odds.
Ways like “Canadian.”
“Our two tight-end set dicates how a defense lines up and helps us even up the numbers in the box some,” offensive coordinator Joe Nixon explained. “And when Zay runs the ball, there are times our blockers outnumber the defenders.”
Young said the Falcons employ “Canadian” on 25 percent of their snaps, although they used it far more frequently than that in the regular season win against West Iredell and the playoff victory against Statesville.
“Some weeks ‘Canadian’ is lightly used, but some weeks heavily,” Young said. “Depends on the opponent. We like it for ball control if we’re playing against a very talented offense that we want to keep off the field.”
West’s tight ends understand their role is to block.
The tight end in 2010, Patrick Hampton, was a gifted grabber of passes who was actually the Falcons’ leading receiver, but this year’s “Canadians” aren’t going to see many aerials.
“If there are six receivers, I’m the ninth option,” Gallagher joked.
“We’re glorified tackles,” Kraft added cheerfully.
And yet, Kraft made a big play at Burns. It was only his sixth reception all year, but it mattered.
“Burns has got us pinned third-and-8 back at our 20, and Zay looks for Louis, and Louis comes up with a huge reception,” Young said.
Kraft’s 12-yard catch moved the chains and got another West drive rolling.
“Just a little seam route over the middle, but it was a big conversion,” Kraft said.
Kraft has caught two TD passes, but he’s celebrated 30. He’s always that guy hoisting Miller or Laster into the air after they score.
“I just get psyched up when we score,” the bearded Kraft said with a grin. “Some of the guys have been on me a little bit. They wish I could block as well as I celebrate.”
In all seriousness, the Falcons have no complaints about their tight ends.
“I’m sure Louis hasn’t gotten as many receptions or touchdowns or yards as he expected to get his senior year,” Young said. “But he’s gotten better this year. Like a lot of our kids, he’s gotten a whole lot better.”