Future Coug runs Air Raid to perfection in W

FT. LAUDERDALE — After watching future Washington State quarterback Peyton Bender riddle his team for 369 air yards and four touchdowns on Friday, Western High defensive coordinator Brandon McIntosh was left stating the obvious: Bender and his Cardinal Gibbons mates "executed their offense to perfection." That offense is the Air Raid and Bender looked like a veritable Graham Harrell running it.

He completed 24-of-31 passes and never was sacked despite McIntosh's best efforts to dial up the heat. By the time Bender was pulled from the game with 9:18 left in the fourth quarter his team was ahead 38-0. They won 45-0 and are now 1-0 on the season (last week's game against Belen Jesuit was an exhibition).

Geographically speaking, Bender was light outs no matter where he put the ball. He hit 75 percent of his passes when throwing to the left side of the field, 84 percent to the right, and 70 in between the hash marks.

"The good thing about the Air Raid coaches, they all pick up the phone when you call them," said Cardinal Gibbons' offensive coordinator Matt DuBuc, who played receiver at Texas Tech from 1993-1996.

"This offseason we met with Mike Leach, some guys from West Virginia and guys that run this offense and decided that we were going to be all in. We've got a few wrinkles, but we use the same verbiage. It is what Mike Leach and Hal Mumme (SMU) and they all run. It's that offense."

Cardinal Gibbons' offense was roughly 85 percent Air Raid last season and is now 100 percent this year.

"(Peyton) performed very well," said Cardinal Gibbons coach Mike Morrill, who earned his record-breaking 96th win at the school. "We have high expectations for him and high expectations for the offense. For the most part, except for some penalties and mistakes in the second quarter, they executed quite well."

FIRST BLOOD: To start the game, Bender completed five straight passes and concluded a 75-yard scoring drive with a 38-yard lob pass to receiver George Rushing on the left side of the end zone.

"I think he does a great job," Morrill said of Bender. "He is a very cerebral quarterback and an outstanding talent. It was a nice start to the season."

After a Chief's rushing touchdown put the home team up 14-0, Bender connected again for six on a 55-yard screen pass to Anton Hodge.

Bender would finish the first quarter 7-for-8 with 137 passing yards and two touchdowns.

INTO A CROWD: An otherwise spotless night for Bender was blemished in the third quarter when he floated outside the pocket on a third-down play and threw into coverage for his lone interception

"He tried to force it a little bit," Morrill said. "When you throw it around like we do, that's going to happen. He probably tried to be a little too cute."

But Bender's mental stability should prove an asset for the Chiefs this season and later for the Cougars.


"He's got the quick release," DuBuc said. "We brought his tape to Washington State and other places, they were all impressed by that. His footwork, for a pocket passer, he moves so well within the pocket. That's what got Washington State on him. And just the velocity in which he throws the ball. That was the appetizer and now he has developed the mental part of the game."

And as the season progresses, more work and homework will be piled on Bender.

"Part of the Air Raid is giving him a formation and idea and then letting him put us in a better play if the defense adjusts to it," DuBuc said. "And checking plays at the line of scrimmage. That is what he is starting to do."

"We expect him to have a monster year," DuBuc said. "I don't care who we play."

SIREN KEEPS SINGING: The new Air Raid offense meant installing a new siren in the Cardinal Gibbons press box, signaling Chiefs touchdowns. The more the siren sang, the more the Western Wildcats wilted.

"Early on they got us with the no-huddle stuff," Western's McIntosh said. "It was something we didn't simulate in practice this week. Its' tough to prepare for an offense that goes that fast."

With Bender finding different targets with each glance and progression, Wildcat defensive backs looked lost.

"He may be one of the top guys we see this year," McIntosh said. "That's one of the top offenses well see this year."

DuBuc, the Gibbons OC, said the beauty of the Air Raid is that it puts brains over brawn.

"You don't have to have Dan Marino's arm strength," he said. "What you have to have is good, quick decisions. (Bender) has worked tremendously in the offseason … We aren't going to ask him to run the football, we want his uniform clean at the end of the night. We are relying on his mind."

Bender himself was matter-of-fact about the big win: "It is exciting to kick off the year against a great team. We had studied one of their linebackers and game planned around him. We got the ball out of our hands fast enough and we were fine."

BENDER'S STATS: 24-of-31 for 369 yards, 4 TDs and one INT

NEXT UP: At Everglades on Friday the 6th

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