High School Football

Triad rides its triple option to second round

Triad QB Tommy Bauer (3, right) faked a handoff to RB Steven Evanoff (12, left) and gave the ball to Ethan Salopek (48, center) in the first half of the Knights first-round playoff game with Mattoon.
Triad QB Tommy Bauer (3, right) faked a handoff to RB Steven Evanoff (12, left) and gave the ball to Ethan Salopek (48, center) in the first half of the Knights first-round playoff game with Mattoon. tvizer@bnd.com

Triad head football coach Paul Bassler is such a fan of the triple option offense that he’s been known to host Georgia Tech watch parties at his home.

It was GT’s head coach Paul Johnson who made the triple option famous in the 1990s. So when the Yellow Jackets are on television, Bassler will invite his players over to show them how it’s supposed to be run.

While more and more high schools are turning to the spread offense — with their quarterbacks in the shotgun and at least three wide receivers in formation on every play — Bassler still prefers to keep his options open.

“We’re the exception to the rule because everybody else is in a spread and looking to throw the ball,” Bassler said. “Our offense is a lot of fun, though, and I think the kids enjoy it. Actually, it’s fun just to be a little different than every body else. “

Nobody has really stopped it yet — not this season anyway.

Even in a 33-21 loss to Althoff —their only loss of the season —the Knights still racked up 307 yards of rushing. In a Week 7 showdown of then-unbeatens, Highland held the Knights to 13 points and 148 rushing yards, but Triad still came out on top.

No. 7 seeded Lincoln-Way West (8-2) will be the next team to face Triad’s triple option when it arrives in Troy Saturday for the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs. No. 2 seed Triad is 9-1 and ranked No. 6 in the state. Kickoff is at 3 p.m.


The triple option typically places three potential ball carriers in the backfield in addition to the quarterback and they may lineup in any number of formations. This places much different expectations on a triple option quarterback, whose main duty is distribution of the football.

Based on the defensive scheme, the quarterback decides at the line who gets it — he can hand it off inside to the fullback, flip it outside to a half back, or keep it himself.

Triad senior quarterback Tommy Bauer, for example, has attempted just 21 passes all year, but he’s the Knights’ second-leading rusher at 510 yards and seven touchdowns. His main job is distribution, which he’s done successfully to 13 different ball carriers through 10 games.

The variety keeps opposing defenses guessing, Bassler said.

“Our quarterback has to be able to take what the defense gives us and put the ball in the right person’s hands each time,” Bassler said. “The offense is a fast break offense, to put it in basketball terms. We try to get the ball moving and make reads fast. Everything is really fast and clean and everybody has to be in their place doing their job.”

Bassler’s triple option also puts responsibility on the linemen make reads so they know where to concentrate blocking efforts or which would-be tackler can be double teamed.

“Our line has to be able to pick up the things that we’ll see because of what we do,” Bassler said. “As long as we’re communicating on the line we’ll be OK, no matter what the defense throws at us.

“We allow them the freedom that, if they see something, they can make a certain call and communicate with each other so we can combat the things we see out front.”

The offense has yielded 32.8 points per game and made senior Adam Nelson the Knights’ all-time leading rusher, both for the season and a career.

Nelson has 1,610 yards total and averages 10.8 yards per carry, both of which are tops in the metro east.


The Warriors are coming off a 35-12 first-round victory over Dunlap. The team lost its starting quarterback, senior Conner Lowman, to a shoulder injury in the final week fo the regular season. But a balanced offense that averages nearly 35 points per game didn’t seem to be missing anything behind Lowman’s understudy, junior Cal Pohrte.

Pohrte completed 12 of 17 attempts for 295 yards and three touchdowns in his first start.

Running back Gabe Montalvo is the focus of the Lincoln-Way West offense, not to mention opposing defenses. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior has been clocked at a 4.53 in the 40 and has amassed 1,566 yards and 25 touchdowns on 230 carries.

Jake Mauney is the Warriors’ top receiver with 26 catches for 448 yards and six touchdowns. The defense has surrendered an average of just 15.6 points per game.


Saturday’s winner advances to the 5A quarterfinal round where it was face the winner between No. 3 Peoria (9-1) and Centralia (9-1).

Todd Eschman: 618-239-2540, @tceschman