Deerfield keeps options open, defenses guessing

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DEERFIELD — For a defense, keeping track of the football when facing Deerfield’s option offense can be an arduous task.

“It’s very confusing,” said Highland Park defensive end Teddy Sutker following the Giants’ 17-14 win over Deerfield Friday. “You have to go with the most immediate threat … which may result in tackling the wrong person.”

That element of deception is exactly what the Warriors’ offense hopes to accomplish.

“The whole thing with the option is to put one or two kids on the other side in a bind,” Deerfield coach Steve Winiecki said. “If you run it right, whatever decision they make is going to be wrong.”

Winiecki, who used to double as the Warriors’ offensive coordinator, brought the triple-option offense to Deerfield five years ago. He points to Georgia Tech and Navy as two college programs that run the ideal option offense.

“Schools like that are always competing against bigger schools with more scholarship athletes,” Winiecki said. “We kind of see ourselves in the same way. We’re a small school in the CSL. We need a strong offense.”

The Warriors’ option offense consists of many layers. In a typical play, a slot back will go in motion to throw off the defense before the snap. Then junior quarterback Brian Ranallo will take the snap and move with the fullback toward the gap between the right guard and right tackle.

The instant Ranallo arrives at the so-called “4-hole,” he reads the defensive end and decides to either hand the ball off to the fullback or keep it himself. If Ranallo keeps it himself, he continues in the same direction and then can choose whether he wants to pitch the ball to the slot back or, once again, keep it himself.

“The biggest thing with option is always reacting to what the defense is doing,” said Ranallo, who started learning the option offense in seventh grade. “I want to have the defensive end guessing. I want to keep him on his heels.”

Ranallo totaled 136 yards on the ground in Friday night’s rivalry game against Highland Park. The team as a whole rushed for 255 yards, and the Warriors’ slot backs repeat a common message: For the option offense to flourish like it did on Friday, communication is key.

“We have to communicate with the linemen and with the outside receivers,” sophomore Charlie Jones said. “We need to make sure we’re all on the same page.”

“You have to believe in the system,” senior Alex Williams said. “The option only works if you have every member of the offense working together. You might not get a huge gain in the option, but you’re going to keep driving the ball. It’s going to be hard-nosed football.

“If we’re on the same page, then this offense can do great things.”

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