HELENA — For the last two decades the Carroll College football team has run the same offense under longtime coach Mike Van Diest.
That will change this fall.
When Saints coach Troy Purcell was hired last December he mentioned at his press conference the offense will run through his quarterback’s strengths.
Apparently that will also mean playing option-style football.
“We are doing a lot of different things right now with a zone read and triple option,” Purcell said. “It’s kind of a new school instead of the old school from when I was here, running outside veer and inside veer.”
The Saints quarterbacks will sit back in the shotgun and run some run-pass option sets.
There will be some prostyle and drop back plays, but the offense is mainly a style where the quarterback’s athleticism will shine.
“I’ve always liked option football, because you gain a guy and it’s a very exciting style,” Purcell said. “I learned a lot at Idaho under Paul Petrino and during the 25 years I was a high school coach.”
Purcell said that during his three years as an assistant at Idaho, the Vandals ran this style of offense if they had a quarterback who showed the ability to leave the pocket and run.
Last season, quarterback Mason Petrino finished as the team’s third leading rusher with 245 yards and three touchdowns.
The option style gained popularity in the 1970s when programs such as Nebraska, Oklahoma and Georgia Southern saw success in flexion and wishbone sets, but it slowly transformed into today’s read option from shotgun sets out of the spread formation.
With the run-pass option sets now gaining popularity at the high school level, Saints quarterbacks Kolby Killoy and Hunter Bledsoe have some familiarity. They might have had to learn a new playbook this season, but they are not necessarily struggling to keep up.
Killoy ran a similar set while at Pasco High in Washington and Bledsoe has played so much football, he had an idea of what to do.
“You really do have to be more athletic,” Bledsoe said.
“You also have to learn to take some hits,” Killoy butted in, smiling.
The two combined for minus-47 yards rushing and zero touchdowns last season as pocket passers, but both have shown flashes of the ability to escape the pass rush. More importantly, they are willing to learn.
“These guys are doing a good job not only out on the field, but in the meetings, too,” Purcell said. “They are asking the right questions.”
The new style of offense is a change not only for the quarterbacks, but for the running backs, too.
Major Ali returns as the team’s leading rusher but, traditionally, a run-pass option features two or more running backs.
With last year's backup Ryan Arntson leaving to walk on at the University of Montana, Griphen Le, Jesus Parra-Gutierrez and Jack McIntyre will compete for playing time.
Carroll finished near the bottom of the Frontier Conference in points scored and yards gained last year, but now armed with a new style, Ali and the rest of the offense like how everything is coming together.
“It’s similar to last year, but quarterbacks are pulling a true read,” Ali said. “You are definitely going to see the quarterback get out in space more and take some hits. When they take off, it’s like a live game. It’s fun to see.”