Writing. Photography. Video. The home of Jesuit High School student journalism.

Jesuit Chronicle

Writing. Photography. Video. The home of Jesuit High School student journalism.

Jesuit Chronicle

Writing. Photography. Video. The home of Jesuit High School student journalism.

Jesuit Chronicle

OPINION: In a world of spread offenses, has Potter’s ground and pound scheme been left in the past?

Hudson Rommel
Head Coach Ken Potter on the sideline during a game last fall.

Sitting in the stands at West Linn High School on November 10 after the season-ending loss to the Lions, I was reminded of a question that I have been asking myself for years as I have grown up watching the Crusaders football team.

Is Jesuit’s approach to running an offense holding the Crusaders back?

Jesuit has run an old-school ground-and-pound offense that puts a heavy emphasis on running the ball for the last 40 years under head coach Ken Potter. Today’s game has evolved into a world of spread offenses trickling down from the NFL to the high school ranks. In Oregon, powerhouses West Linn and Central Catholic serve as exemplary local examples.

The Ken Potter-crafted ground-and-pound offense, also known as the Power I set, has deep roots. It originally started as a wing-T style offense when Potter first arrived at Jesuit. Potter experienced a lot of success running the wing-T offense at Tigard High School in the 1980s due to the deception and the movement that comes with the offensive scheme.

I was immediately drawn to the question on whether the Potter designed ground-and-pound offense has been left in the past where the spread offenses run by the West Linn and Central Catholics of the world have dominated high school football for the past decade.

A few things became clear when Jesuit faced the No. 1 overall seed West Linn on that muggy November 10 second round playoff battle: the Lions had their way in all three phases of the game and dominated from kickoff to the final whistle.

The Lions proved Jesuit to be an inferior opponent. But were the Crusaders beating themselves?

Throughout this fall season, Jesuit was outscored 228-79 against non-league opponents, meaning that the Crusaders struggled to get points on the board when facing some of the region’s best teams.

Potter’s affinity for the wing-T was rooted in deception. It’s a run-heavy offense that, if executed, is very hard for teams to defend.

When the Crusader personnel changed in the early 90’s, Potter saw an opportunity to use the talented running backs that he had on his team. He described his scheme as a pro-style offense based on the legendary USC teams who had Heisman tailbacks, referring to Marcus Allen and OJ Simpson who dominated the late 60’s into the 70’s.

Potter loves to vex a defense and the power-I was built on misdirection. Call it a match made in heaven.

Do the Crusaders need to modernize their offense?

Potter would argue that he bases his scheme off of his personnel and that he has had multiple 1000 yard receivers that have played on the same team and have had quarterbacks throw for 3000 yards.

Jesuit hasn’t won a state title since 2015. The question I keep coming back to: Is an outdated offense at root of its struggles? And is evolving it a part of a solution?

To answer that question, I went straight to the source. After all, this is a system he’s deployed to win four state titles, and 22 league titles.

Potter’s perspective comes from his dad, George Potter who was a high school football coach for 40 years all over the Pacific Northwest, coaching in places such as Sandy, Bend and Athena before making his way up to Washington where he coached in Centralia.

Potter’s dad ran a similar pro style offense. “My dad’s offense was more of a power offense that ran the ball really well,” Potter said. “I emulated that because that was my knowledge growing up. But then I took a little bit from different coaches that I got to coach for, and just tried to make it something that I felt I could instruct to the kids and make it as effective as possible.”

Potter obviously getting inspiration from his dad who coached over 50 years ago may be some proof for those that argue that the Jesuit offense is outdated.

The top ranked teams in the state this year, including West Linn, Central Catholic and Tualitan, all run a spread offense and often will line up in an empty four receiver set. These teams have proven to have some of the most potent offenses in the state as the Lions scored a state best 459 total points, and chose to continuously throw the ball down field.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Potter has thought about an offensive overhaul at least once.

When talking about some of the top spread offenses in the state, it is important to also look at personnel. West Linn and Central Catholic are both littered with Division One talent across the field and have had a lot of quality players transfer in to help run college level spread offenses. 2022 Gatorade player of the year, Sam Leavitt, who transferred to the Lions from Westview is a prime example.

Maybe the Crusaders simply have not had the high level quarterbacks and receivers to run the modernized passing attack. If Jesuit were to have the proper personnel and fit the given team, Potter seems to have no problem airing the ball out and changing his scheme.

“I would be more than happy to run those kinds of offenses if I felt that was best for us and our personnel, Potter said”.

However, Potter made it clear that he is not going to emulate another school just because they have had success at something. He would later tell me that trying something that other teams are doing when you don’t have the personnel will set your team up for failure.

As my conversation with Potter continued, I started to think about the talent level that Jesuit has acquired over the years. Does Jesuit miss out on talented middle school players because of the Jesuit system that takes place in a world of spread offenses?

Although he didn’t directly answer the question, Potter does not want players who base their high school decision on a football team to be a part of his program. He wants players to attend Jesuit because it is an elite academic institution.

I could certainly make the argument that Jesuit does miss out on talented quarterbacks and receivers who want to be in a system that airs the ball out. However, Potter is not the issue. If he gets the right players in his program that fit a modernized scheme, then that’s what he will do.

Though the Crusaders offense may seem dry or boring, and maybe they do need to update the offensive scheme, it is false to say that Potter will not do it.

Potter has done to high school football what Bill Belichick has done to the NFL, and that is being dominant for decades and winning multiple championships. Point being is that he is an elite level coach who knows what he is doing.

Potter does what he feels is best for his team and has had vast amounts of success running the scheme that he has coached since his arrival at Jesuit in 1987.

As time goes on, we will have to play the waiting game and see if Potter chooses to change the offense. It sounds as if the personnel is right, the Crusaders could resort to a modernized spread like scheme. All it could take is an elite quarterback and some high level receivers to see a new look Jesuit offense.

More to Discover
About the Contributors
Luke Bayne
Luke Bayne, Sports Writing Editor
Luke Bayne is a senior at Jesuit High School. He is interested in writing about sports specifically analyzing the competition, game plan and personnel for each team. Luke loves playing lacrosse and golfing in his free time. Along with those hobbies, he attends most Oregon Duck home football games. Luke got interested in journalism from watching sports and reading articles on ESPN and Sports Illustrated, he is super excited to interview Jesuit athletes and coaches and learn how they prepare for each game. Luke hopes to publish many articles for Jesuit athletics and provide insights about the crusaders to people all around the pacific northwest.
Hudson Rommel
Hudson Rommel, Co-Director of Photography
Hudson Rommel is a senior at Jesuit High School who had taken photography and graphic design his Junior year. He, his parents, his younger brother, and his dog live in Tigard. Hudson’s dad grew up in Sunset attending Sunset High School and his mom grew up in San Antonio, Texas. His mom moved up to Portland with Hudson’s dad and had Hudson a few years later. Hudson’s friends would describe him as passionate, kind, outgoing, and adventurous. Hudson has a great passion for baseball and has hopes to continue to play after high school. He is interested in writing about sports at Jesuit. Hudson wants to write about interviews he has with players about different rivalries and what the sports mean to the players and coaches. Outside of school Hudson enjoys spending time with friends and family, photography, cooking, legos, and video games. He likes spending time outdoors on the weekends he’s free and finding different places to explore. His dog, Bristol, is a black golden doodle who loves running around the house trying to play tug of war with Hudson. Hudson loves playing with his dog and taking her on walks around the neighborhood or on new hikes.