SKOWHEGAN, Maine — Matt Friedman didn’t have to travel far to take his new high school football coaching position.
Friedman left Madison to take over at neighboring Skowhegan High School.
He brought with him a new offensive philosophy as the Indians have gone from a run-oriented set to the spread offense.
And the Indians passed their first test in dramatic fashion with junior quarterback Adam Clukey throwing to senior wide receiver Grant Benson for a game-winning 18-yard touchdown with 10.9 seconds left in a 22-16 win over Oxford Hills of South Paris on Friday night.
Clukey threw for 219 yards, completing 16 of 26 passes for three TDs. Benson had seven receptions for 150 yards and two TDs.
In addition, senior running back Tyler Savage, who ran for over 700 yards last season, contributed 120 rushing yards on 19 carries.
“We’ve got a pretty balanced team,” said Friedman. “[Clukey] has taken to the spread offense very well. He understands defenses and passing concepts and he’s really patient with the football. He has a very strong arm and I’m also encouraging him to pull the ball in [and run] and show that aspect of his game. He’s a very good athlete.”
Clukey was the JV quarterback last season.
Savage was a nice complement to the departed Adam Dusty (1,331 yards, 172 carries) a year ago and now he finds himself as the workhorse.
“Tyler is a great back,” said Friedman. “He has excellent balance, good vision and pretty good speed.”
Benson and junior Owen Mercier will be two of Clukey’s primary targets along with tight end D.J. Allen, who is also a junior.
Another junior, Ben Salley, will see some time in the backfield.
They will benefit from a seasoned offensive line made up of guards Alex Baker, one of the captains, and junior Ethan Liberty; senior tackles Andrew Pineo and Tucker Lombard and sophomore center Bo Locke.
The offense has done a good job adapting to the new scheme.
“Going from the double wing to the spread offense is a big change. They’ve done a good job. They’ve had to make some adjustments but they’ve picked it up,” said Friedman. “What we like to do is make it hard for the defense to guess what we’re going to do.”
They will employ a 3-4 defense and Friedman said “we’re going to try to be very aggressive.
“It’s a work in progress. They played pretty well against Oxford Hills. They played a great first half. But there’s room for improvement,” said Friedman.
Lombard is making the adjustment from tackle to nose guard and the tackles will be Pineo and Liberty. Senior Ben Clement will get some snaps at tackle.
Baker and Allen are the inside linebackers with Salley and senior Chase McKenney being the outside backers. Dan Quirion, a sophomore, will see service at linebacker.
Benson and Savage will be in the secondary along with Mercier and Clukey.
But Friedman said he hopes to have junior Brett Gilbert move in to the safety spot, allowing Clukey to get a breather and concentrate on offense.
Sophomore Kaleb Brown is an all-purpose back on offense and a linebacker.
Senior Levi Hayden will play on the offensive line and at linebacker and junior Anthony Hunt will be used on the defensive line.
Friedman said their off-season workouts were “very well-attended” and that made the transition to the new offensive and defensive schemes easier.
The Indians don’t have a lot of size but Friedman said they will compensate with quickness.
“Our greatest physical attribute is our team speed,” said Friedman.
Clukey will be the punter and Lombard will do the placekicking.
Last year’s record: 5-4
Coach: Matt Friedman, 1st year
Key players: RB-S Tyler Savage, QB-S Adam Clukey, Jr., WR-S Grant Benson, Sr., OG-ILB Alex Baker, Sr., OG-DT Ethan Liberty, Jr., OT-DT Andrew Pineo, Sr., OT-MG Tucker Lombard, Sr., TE-ILB D.J. Allen, Jr., RB-OLB Ben Salley, Jr., OLB Chase McKenney, Sr.
Outlook: The Indians will be a playoff contender. They have taken to the new spread offense and Clukey had a memorable debut as the starting quarterback in the 22-16 win over Oxford Hills last weekend. There are plenty of veterans on the offensive line and tailback Savage ran for over 700 yards last season. So they will be diversified and that should keep opposing defenses guessing. The defense returns some key components and should be solid.