HUMMING BIRDS | Lewiston-Altura offense led by QB Marcus Weaver humming through two Cardinals wins
LEWISTON, Minn. — After wrapping up a 5-5 season a year ago, Lewiston-Altura High School football coach Brent Olson approached his soon-to-be new quarterback Marcus Weaver with the plan for this season and it took Weaver a bit by surprise.
Olson told him they wanted to throw the ball more for the upcoming season.
It was a little bit surprising considering the Cardinals are known for the plentiful running backs carrying the ball in the Wing T formation. Yet they have been known to throw the ball as well. Last season Dusty Knutson was one of the better quarterbacks in the area throwing for over 800 yards, but was better known for his legs rushing for over 600 yards. But, they still struggled to prevent teams from using nine-to-10 man loaded boxes to stop the run.
The Cardinals still have the Wing T formation, but Olson felt Weaver could bring an extra dynamic utilizing his talented arm to this offense.
“I just felt like we could stretch the field a little bit,” Olson said. “The teams had really been stacking the box against us in the past. Some years we could take advantage some we couldn’t. We just weren’t accurate enough throwing the ball. I just felt like he was going to be able to do that. Throw it accurately and put it on people.”
So far Weaver and company have turned Olson’s gut feeling into reality putting up back-to-back 35- plus point outbursts in their first two contests — 37-14 over Lake City in Week 1 and 35-14 over Zumbrota-Mazeppa in Week 2.
Weaver has produced some eye-popping numbers in those two contests.
He threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns on just nine completions against Lake City and followed that up with 169 yards on nine completions with two touchdowns against Z-M.
The numbers are so surprising that even they even have Weaver a little shocked.
“I’m a little surprised,” Weaver admitted. “I knew I would be putting up some numbers, but yeah it’s definitely a little surprising we have been putting up these numbers as a team.”
Weaver has been efficient finding six different receivers in the season opener against Lake City before finding four more in the second game.
“The receivers have made plays for him,” Olson said. “He has been spreading it around and not focusing on one guy. We try to spread it around as much as possible so it doesn’t revolve around one guy.”
Of course the Cardinals do have that one guy in their arsenal in the forms of big 6-foot-2 tight end Mitch Bonow.
Lake City made it a point of emphasis to stop him. He only had one catch for seven yards, but with Zumbrota-Mazeppa focused on taking away the other receivers this time around, Bonow exploded for 95 yards on four catches while catching two touchdowns.
“It’s really easy throwing to a big target like him,” Weaver said. “He can just come down with a lot of balls, he also does a really good job blocking. He is really good in our run game. He just buries people on the line.”
But Weaver knows everything with that Cardinals offense starts with the big boys up front, the offensive line, as well as Bonow and that receiving core.
“The two biggest keys for me so far this season has been the O-line and also our receivers,” he said. “They have been giving me time to throw passes. Without them I wouldn’t be able to get this big passes off. Our receivers have been stepping up and making plays on the ball. Going up and getting it over defenders.”
They may not be the biggest, in fact Olson said this might be the smallest offensive line they have ever had, but they are extremely athletic.
Left tackle Cole Mundt played fullback last season before transitioning to the offensive line to provide that extra athleticism. Olson even has his current fullbacks Noah Herber and Ashtyn Christie take reps at guard once in a while because Olson teaches, “guards are essentially fullbacks that don’t have the ball in their hands.”
The way they pull them to get them out in space they simply have to be athletic enough to get out and pave the way for their talented backs. So far guards Chris Schell, Jacob Anderson, as well as center Carter Brummer have done a great job opening up holes for the talented rushing trio of Herber, Evan Daley, and Danner Brummer.
With an athletic offensive line and Weaver keeping the defense honest, the three have found more than enough daylight.
The three combined for 223 yards and three touchdowns on just 21 carries last week.
“Just getting them the ball a few times in space and letting them run,” Olson said. “They are decent size backs. They kind of combine a little bit of power with a little bit of speed. They aren’t big backs or burners, just in between.”
The Cardinals appear to have the tools in place for a special season. The key now is to be able to produce week-after-week.
“The key is consistency,” Weaver said. “We have been making big plays here or there, but we have also had some plays where we were like, ‘oh that just looked bad.’ If we get everything more locked down and tighter play. We can get big plays more often.”