Desert Ridge running back Joey Counts was the beneficiary of a new run formation the Jaguars installed two days ago.
Running out of the unconventional "Triple I," Counts nearly set a new big-school rushing record with 400 yards on 19 carries in Desert Ridge's 63-14 victory over Phoenix North Canyon in a Division I non-section game.
The AIA website lists the Class 5A record-holder as Jeremiah Cornist from Avondale La Jolla who had 380 yards in a game in 2008, but according to the Arizona Daily Star, Tucson Sunnyside running back Manny Vera ran for 409 yards against Nogales in September 2010.
"We put it in on Wednesday," said Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock. "It was crazy, huh?"
Perhaps crazy is not the right word when it comes to Desert Ridge's offensive stylings.
The Triple-I is a shotgun formation with three running backs lined up on an offset I. On the Jaguars' first play from scrimmage, Counts ran to the left behind Alex Barrett and Ruben Rodriguez. Counts was not touched on his 77-yard run.
On the Jaguars' second play from scrimmage, they ran the same exact play. This time Counts scored on a 56-yard run.
"I just hit the hole," Counts said.
After two plays a pattern emerged. On their third play from scrimmage, Barrett and Rodriguez again led the way. This time it was to the right for 45 yards.
By halftime, Counts had 317 yards on 10 carries with four touchdowns. The fourth was from, you guessed itk, the Triple I. It was a 71-yard jaunt.
A 6-yard touchdown put him unofficially at 400 yards.
For Barrett the backfield assignment was a wish come true.
"It's every lineman's dream to line up in the backfield," he said.
For Rodriguez, his new assignment was more personal.
"I was going to block my butt off for Joey," he said. "I've known him for a long time. He's like a brother to me."
"He does a lot for us," Hathcock said. "He does everything we ask."
Rodriguez was confident that even though the Triple-I was recently installed, it would be successful.
"At practice it worked very well." he said.
The Jaguars led 56-0 at halftime, but were aware Counts was closing in on the record.
Counts and the first team offense played only one possession in the second half. The lone drive was an 83-yard march, and Counts carried the ball on all nine plays.
"Everybody said to give the ball to Joey," Hathcock said.