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Eagles piecing offensive puzzle together

Fort Dale Academy football coach James Sampley has been playing musical chairs with his offense.

The Eagles are resorting to a new spread offense instead of the 3-yards and a cloud of dust power football Sampley's teams have been noted to run.

Since he has introduced the new offense, he has had to move players around to fit the system. Tyler Lowe, for instance, was moved from guard to tight end along the offensive line. Now, he's back at guard. Meanwhile Cory Johnson has been moved from guard to tight end.

"I need people who can catch the ball," Sampley said. "Before I didn't care if the tight end could catch the ball or not as long as he could block somebody. But not with this offense."

The Eagles went through their first dress rehersal before their jamboree games with Macon-East Montgomery Academy and Pike Liberal Arts Academy in Cecil next Friday night. Sampley ran his club through a 48-play controlled scrimmage.

The Eagles coach said he was encouraged by what he saw during the early going, but was disappointed in how quickly his team ran out of gas.

"We're not in football shape, and it was obvious during those last 10 plays," he said. "We started off real well, and it just took a turn near the end."

As far as how the players are catching on to the new offense, Sampley said that it has been a working progress.

"I think they are enjoying it," he said. "We've been a power football team since I've been here, and after you've practiced it so much it gets old. So something new has been good for us. We're not good at it right now, but we're making progress."

There's no guarantee that what the Eagles have been practicing for the last week will be what is seen next Friday.

"How much we throw it Friday night - I'm not sure," Sampley said. "We're not that polished right now. But we'll run out of that offense no matter what. But if we start out the season 0-3 with this offense, we may have to go back to what we know."

In addition to learning a new offense, the Eagles are continuing to fine tune Sampley's 3-5 defense that was installed last season. Fort Dale has continued to work on their blitz packages out of the 3-5 and work with thee eight players in the box to help them understand that the defense is more gap-controlled than man on man.

Sampley resorted to this style of defense last year hoping he would surprise his opponents with such a different look. However, it was Sampley who was surprised when he noticed half of the teams he faced last season were operating from the same base defense.

"We've got a lot of stand-up kids who play better off the ball instead of being down on the ground," Sampley said. "If we had five 300-pounders then we'd be running the 5-2 this year, but we don't. This defense fits our kids better."