MERIDEN — The Maloney Spartans took the physicality of high school football to another level on Friday night against the Berlin Redcoats.
The vast majority of high school offenses use a more run-heavy approach, and running back Josh Boganski was built for the task. His impressive yards-after-contact ability was on display in Friday’s 27-13 win over Berlin at Falcon Field. He tallied 230 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries.
Running the ball is a bit more risk-free, as even the more talented high school quarterbacks are prone to mistakes in their mechanics, reads or judgment.
Maloney was reminded of this on in its first snap from scrimmage Friday. Quarterback Angel Arce threw a pick-six, targeting a wide receiver running a slant route, but throwing behind him.
Berlin linebacker Ryan Scheer pounced and returned it 52 yards for the touchdown, putting Berlin up 7-0 early in the game.
After the early deficit, the Spartans moved away from the air attack and began feeding Boganski.
“One play will never sink us; we’ll always try to rebound from that,” Maloney head coach Kevin Frederick said. “But, yeah, you never want to start the game with a pick-six like that. It’s disappointing that happened, but we’re just happy to come out victorious.”
Arce had 18 attempts, barely over half of Boganski’s touches. The Spartans ran a mixture of outside zone, iso and counter, as 21 personnel packages were a mainstay in the Maloney offense.
Boganski knew that his teammates were a major reason he was able to put up such a dominant statline.
“The offensive line did it’s thing,” Boganski said. “I couldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for them, and my (fullback) Stone (Deleon), he showed me all the right gaps.”
Boganski is referring to the iso runs that the Spartans ran, which consist of a fullback leading the tailback through a specific gap in the offensive line, then blocking a linebacker at the next level.
That blocking scheme, combined with Boganski’s downhill speed and ability to shake off arm tackles, allowed him to rush for 6.8 yards per carry and lead the offense down the field on multiple drives.
Frederick emphasized that this type of performance starts in practice. Without that extra gear that pushes a player to the next level in practice, they won’t be able to manufacture that energy under the Friday night lights.
Frederick is a big believer in the “practice like you play” mantra. Boganski exemplifies that saying in practice and it shows on the game field.
“Josh is a worker; I’m not surprised at all because he had such a good practice week,” Frederick said. “He runs the ball hard on every rep; he doesn’t take a play off in any of the drills. I’m hoping that rubs off on some other guys on the team.”
Another inherent function of establishing the run is the physical toll that it takes on the opposing defense. Imagine being a Berlin inside linebacker on Friday night and seeing Boganski running downhill at you in the first quarter. It’s your job to make that tackle. Now imagine having to do that 33 more times in the next two hours.
So, essentially, every two minutes of game time, you have to make a tackle on Boganski. His height and weight aren’t listed on the Maloney roster, but he’s one of the more physically imposing players on either sideline.
Not only are you going to have to ice up after taking all those hits from Boganski, it tires you out having to work off blocks from offensive linemen and fullbacks.
“The offensive line was just pushing them all day today,” Boganski said. “Made them tired, and it opened up the gaps for me.”
Maloney imposed its will on Berlin to no end. The Spartans bruised their way down the field at their own pace via the rush, which produced four scoring drives. Arce complemented the running game by taking advantage of read options and finding open receivers on the sideline, an area of the field a team leaves open when they feel they’re vulnerable to the run.
Maloney’s feature back took advantage of the opportunity to play a smash-mouth brand of football.
“In the second half, we’re just wearing teams down,” said Frederick, whose team goes into its bye week at 4-1. “We played with a good tempo and we just took the wind out of their sails.”