The GHS football team has been busy this week in preparations for their Saturday afternoon quarterfinal playoff match at Ridgerunner Stadium with the Star Spencer Bobcats.
Offensively the Bobcats utilize a potent option attack. In tomorrow's preview story we'll focus on just what Star does in their formations and what the Ridgerunners have in store to contain it.
One person who is very familiar with the option scheme is former Oklahoma Sooners and NY Jets defensive back Darryl Ray. During his playing days at OU, '76 to '79, Ray was a first-hand witness to one of the most potent option offenses ever to set foot on the gridiron.
Quarterback Thomas Lott, running back Billy Sims, and lineman Greg Roberts were the trinity of a Sooner offensive unit that helped lead their team to an 11-1 record, an Orange Bowl victory, and a Heisman Trophy (Sims) and Outland Trophy (Roberts) in 1978.
"That's what OU was famous for, the wishbone and the running backs going downhill," Ray said. "The best-kept secret, I thought, was the outstanding run-blocking that the offensive linemen had at the time. They would just come off the ball and blow into you. They'd get after your legs, they'd crab-crawl you, just do whatever they had to do. That allowed the backs to find those seams and they made the most of it.
"Speed always kills. That's one thing OU always had," said Ray. "Our fullback may have been as fast as our tailback. And that really becomes the uncommon denominator. When you have a guy that's supposed to be the big, plodding fullback, and, instead, it's Kenny King and he just jets off with the ball and you don't know whether he's coming or going, that becomes a hard thing to defend."
Ray was an option quarterback himself in high school at Killeen, TX. The All-Big 8 and six year NFL veteran responds in measured tones to remarks about his collegiate and professional accomplishments but perks up at the mention of his Oil Bowl (Oklahoma-Texas high school all star game) MVP performance from '76.
"I was never much for blow-harding but now that I'm over 50, you know, it's all right to throw your laurels out there," Ray said laughing in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon.
"I remember high school ball. When you're rolling it was even more fun than playing pro," Ray said. "OU was the best, but in high school, when you get rolling in the state playoffs, and the whole town closes down to watch you play; there's nothing better than that!"
Always a fan favorite at OU, Ray retired from football in 1985 after six seasons with the NY Jets. After football Ray, along with his wife of thirty years Diane began a new career in the restaurant business.
"We had a Kettle franchise for 18 years (in Oklahoma City). After that we started perfecting a BBQ recipe with a couple of other restaurants in OKC and it culminated with us heading down here (Norman) and finding a spot and, away we go!" said Ray.
Ray and his wife own and operate Ray's Smokehouse and BBQ on Lindsey Street in Norman. The eatery has been open for two months and has received rave reviews from all of my friends back home who have eaten there.
"We've been doing very, very well," Ray said of his new venture. "You order at the register and we call your number out or bring the food to you if we're not overly busy. It's a somewhat simple process but we think the food is outstanding and we try very hard to make it that way."
While dining at the Ray's new restaurant is a casual affair, taking on an option football team is most assuredly not. Ray is very familiar with the advantages an option team can potentially possess in a game.
(Thanks for the transition tip DR!)
"You can control the ball and control the tempo of the game with the option," he said.
From his days as a DB, however, Ray knows how a defense can shut down an option attack.
"You need a very good front seven," he said. "Your DB's are going to come into the equation because 11 good men are better than seven, but the defense must control the line of scrimmage.
"The way to stop it is if you have three or four strong defensive linemen or a couple of good linebackers in there that can actually make the offense do something different or that can dictate the terms of where the offense is going to run," Ray said.
As fate would have it those are all qualities- strong linemen and good linebackers- that the Ridgerunner defense possesses in abundance.
Besides answering questions Ray posed a few of his own, specifically about the Grove team.
"That's getting with it pretty good," Ray responded when told of the Ridgerunners' 11-0 season and about some of their exploits this year. "It sounds like you guys have something good going on up there."
Ray is somewhat familiar with Grand Lake having visited the Shangri-La resort back in it's hey day.
"It's unbelievably pretty country," he said of the Grove area.
As a veteran of some of the biggest games in football I asked Ray if he had any advice for our team as they prepare for their biggest game of the season to date.
"When you get over 50 you can give some great advice," he laughed. "This will be one of the highlights of their life, right up there with getting married and having kids and all of that stuff.
"It's so much fun. I hope some of them can realize that and just enjoy this, really enjoy this," Ray continued. "Play like your hair is on fire! Don't get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the game; just play like you're playing against your little brother. And you know you're going to win because that's your little brother and you can't let him win!
"All of us 50-year old guys look back and think, 'Man, we could have won state in high school if we'd of just…'," he laughed. "But, there's only going to be one team that wins state this year in 4A so why not Grove?
"I'm wishing you guys a lot of luck. Go Grove!"