As the Wootton junior varsity football coach last fall, Tyree Spinner longed to incorporate his own offensive system. The former college tight end appreciates power football and creative play design, and he felt a bit cramped in the spread attack used by the Patriots’ varsity squad.
While he snuck a few of his favorite calls into the junior varsity playbook, Spinner dutifully taught the spread’s central concepts. But since taking over the program in January, the 29-year-old has made up for lost time, calling all of his own plays in a diverse system that utilizes a variety of formations.
Led by sophomore quarterback Sam Ellis, Wootton executed Spinner’s new offense to perfection in Friday’s 40-20 victory over Bethesda-Chevy Chase. Ellis hit on 18 of 33 passes for 213 yards and three first-half touchdowns, leading the Patriots past the Barons in a battle of Maryland 4A West playoff hopefuls in Rockville.
“It seems like we’re doing something completely different every week,” said Ellis, who quarterbacked Spinner’s junior varsity squad last season. “It’s a lot of learning, a lot of studying.”
Ellis completed 10 of his first 12 passes as Wootton (4-3, 4-0 Maryland 4A South) took command from the start. The Patriots scored on their first two possessions and took a 26-7 lead when the young signal-caller connected with senior Joe Stapleton on a 14-yard score with 34 seconds left in the first half.
Ellis did most of his damage against Bethesda-Chevy Chase (4-3, 2-2) in the opening half with 162 passing yards and all three touchdowns — each to a different receiver — before intermission.
“He knows what I want,” said Spinner, who first worked with Ellis in the Rockville youth league. “I can say the play and the formation completely wrong, and he’ll go out on the field and correct it in the huddle.That’s what you need out of your quarterback — someone who can lead regardless of their class.”
Senior Miles Green might have benefited most from Spinner’s promotion. Listed as a tight end, he moves freely around the formation, able to line up on the line, out wide or in the back field.
The 6-foot-1, 206-pounder emerged as the focal point of Wootton’s passing attack on Friday, particularly finding success on screen plays. He led the Patriots with six catches for 101 receiving yards and added a one-yard rushing score in the fourth quarter.
Trevon Diggs — brother of 2011 All-Met Defensive Player of the Year Stefon Diggs — is the team’s top downfield threat, and he continued his strong freshman season with four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown.
Wootton entered the night in the sixth position in the Maryland 4A West playoff race behind Bethesda-Chevy Chase, which held the fourth and final spot. With those young skill position players, the Patriots can look forward to a bright future, but playing on a team that has made one playoff appearance in the past 20 years, Ellis said he senses the urgency heading into the season’s final weeks.
“It’s a weird feeling,” Ellis said. “It’s really fun to think that I still have at least 23 games left [in high school], but I also feel like I’m a senior in a way because this year means so much to all of us."
Senior Jack Sieber had an 87-yard kickoff return touchdown and a three-yard touchdown run for the Barons.