Newly adopted offense a recipe for success for Cannon Falls
When Cannon Falls head coach Dan Meyers took over the Bombers program in 2017, he and his staff faced the decision all new coaches face.
What is going to be our identity and culture? And what is going to be our system?
“Our focus was to build up our youth program and then to establish our identity as a team,” said Meyers.
The staff decided to be a run-first offense, adopting the “T-Offense” that focused on running the ball 90 percent of the time by using three running backs and a tight end with nary a wide receiver.
“We don’t have a wide receiver position at any level of our program,” said Meyers.
Meyers and his staff learned the offense from Elk River. A few other teams have run it and have had wild success. Lakeville South, currently ranked No. 1 in the metro, runs it.
“It’s the best move I have done as a coach,” said Meyers. “It’s an amazing system.”
Meyers said the biggest component to the offense is misdirection and aggressiveness.
“It is a super aggressive system,” he said. “We get off the ball and go after you.”
With three backs in the backfield, defenses have a hard time determining who ends up with the ball. Even when opponents stack the box against the run, Meyers likes it because it opens up the field for his 6’5″ tight end and they can throw the ball when needed. But they rarely need to, averaging 370 yards on the ground per game.
“We prefer teams to stack the box, because it opens up the pass game and if we get after that first wave of guys, even running the ball, there’s a lot of open field after that.”
The Bombershave seen great success the past two seasons, but Meyersadmits there were growing pains. His teams went 2-6 in both of his first two seasons. Last year they went 8-2 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the state tournament where they lost 26-22 to Dassel-Cokato. Dassel-Cokato lost in the title game to Pierz.
This season theBombersare 5-0 heading into the final week of regular season play. They have a tight group of seniors and their learning of the system is starting to show. They are averaging 7.2 yards per carry and have rushed the ball 262 times compared to 19 passes. They have scored 25 touchdowns on the ground and are doing so by spreading the ball out amongst their host of backs.
Riley Keenan, a junior running back, leads the team with 435 yards and 53 carries. Senior Marcus Banks also has 53 carries for 393 yards and leads with eight touchdowns. Fellow senior Riley Miller has 51 carries for 340 yards and four TDs. Senior QB Owen Edstrom has 32 carries for 178 yards and four touchdowns. He has also thrown for six of them. Carson Hammel has rushed 31 times for 253 yards and three touchdowns.
The problem for defenses is figuring out who has the ball. But it isn’t just the running backs who are key to the running the efficient offense. Meyers said they rely on a smart and aggressive (not always big) offensive line and it also helps to have a 6’5″ tight end in Camden Dicke, who is a fierce presence as a blocker, but who is also very athletic with good hands.
“Cam is a great weapon for us and allows us to pass the ball a little more,” said Meyers. “He also plays corner for us and shuts down the other team’s top receiver.”
This year Meyers has eight starters who play both ways, typical for small town football.
“We don’t have a ton of guys,” he said. “We are actually one of the smaller 3A schools in the state.”
But that hasn’t kept them from being one of the best. They are currently ranked No. 2 by the Associated Press in 3A and ranked fourth in QRF by Minnesota-Scores.net.
Without a Prep Bowl this year, there won’t be a state championship run for any team. But for now, the Bombers are just having fun and having success with their style of play.
“We are just happy to be playing football,” said Meyers. “There was a time where I didn’t think we would have a football season at all.”
He said that team has set other goals to shoot for: going undefeated and winning a conference and section title.
“For a lot of years we were on the cusp of being a really good program,” he said. “I think we are as good as anybody else in our class right now. I just credit these kids for working hard every single day. They play hard for each other and love to play football. It’s been fun to watch.”
Youth Program key for Bombers success
When Dan Meyers became head football coach at Cannon Falls he brought with him 12 years of experience from Northfield. He studied other programs and what made them successful. One of his main goals at Cannon Falls was to develop a strong youth football program. He enlisted the help of his brother, Keith, who had young kids coming up and is the director of the youth program.
“We laid the groundwork and came up with a lot of different ideas and he’s implemented those,” said Meyers.
They run the NFL-sponsored flag football program for kids in 1stthrough fourth grades and startedan in-house tackling program in 5thand 6thgrades. They used to do a travel schedule but switched to in house so they could control the level of competition.
“We have four teams and even them all out as best we can,” he said. “We have just enough kids to play 9-man football. And we don’t have coaches who stay with one team.”
Instead they have coaches who focus on specific areas of the game and teach all of the kids. For example, an offensive coach will call plays for both teams. It focuses more on development and less on winning. Certain rules are also in play. There is a two-touchdown limit per player. Once a kid scores twice, he is immediately moved to the offensive line. This avoids teams relying on one player to take over games.
“That isn’t good for anybody, and it also allows kids to learn all of the different positions,” he said.
And they teach them the same system throughout. The same playbook is taught at every level all the way up through high school. Not having wide receivers in the mix is a plus because you develop depth at running back and tight end, Meyers said.
“And they get the ball a lot more than a wide receiver typically does, probably about 8 times a game,” he said.
They keep their costs low for families through a few large basketball tournaments that helps fund all youth sports in town. It costs $50 for player registration, and the association provides all of the equipment and jerseys.
By evening out teams and staying in house, and not having dads coach teams but instead coach specific areas of the game, it makes for a fun and yet competitive atmosphere.
“The kids can be competitive and experience winning and losing,” Meyers said.
It’s all part of the recipe for success in Cannon Falls.