A balanced approach on offense usually produces the biggest dividends.
Henderson may believe otherwise.
After six games this season, the Lions were 4-2 and averaging 25.6 points. Henderson had rushed for 892 yards and passed for 816 in that span.
Then Henderson played Gilmer and fell behind by double digits. The Lions decided to make a change, moving leading receiver Patrick Brown to quarterback so the offense could focus more on the run.
Brown carried 19 times for 169 yards and a touchdown, with Henderson nearly rallying back before succumbing 28-26.
Henderson lost that game, but a run-first philosophy was born and the Lions haven’t looked back. Using Brown and Diamante Wright in more of a zone-read option look, Henderson is averaging 247 yards rushing per game while their points-per-game average has increased by over a touchdown (33.2 ppg).
Brown has rushed 160 times for 1,244 yards and 19 touchdowns with Wright totaling 1,273 yards and 16 scores. In Henderson’s three playoff games, the Lions are averaging 371 yards rushing per game and a whopping 53.6 points per contest.
“Offensively, we’ve been able to really run the ball well the last four or five weeks,” Henderson coach Dickie Meeks said. “We are hoping that we can throw (when we need to), but we haven’t had to.”
That run-first philosophy has vaulted Henderson (9-4) into the Class 3A quarterfinals and a rematch against Gilmer (12-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at Lobo Stadium in Longview.
The Lions hurt themselves in the first game against Gilmer, nullifying two touchdowns and the game-tying 2-point conversion with penalties.
“I saw three mistakes in that game which cost a chance to win,” Meeks said. “We had some procedure penalties, and they were the correct calls, and we had a fumble early in the game that hurt us a whole lot.
“Those are simple things. When we went to the changeover at quarterback, we just had a young man who didn’t know exactly where to line up sometimes.”
Henderson and/or Gilmer have won 3A state championships in two of the past three years and Meeks is expecting another crowd-pleaser Friday.
“I think it’s great for East Texas and I think the atmosphere will be unbelievable,” Meeks said.