Waitsburg-Prescott soaring with help of offensive coordinator

November 21, 2012 

When the Waitsburg-Prescott football team lost its offensive coordinator, there was some trepidation about who would take over.

The Cardinals were coming off an unbeaten season, capped by the Class 2B state title. But they were losing T.J. Scott, their longtime coordinator who took a job in Alaska, as well as quarterback Zach Bartlow and a good chunk of the offensive line.

Coach Jeff Bartlow quickly filled the coordinator position, though, by promoting special teams coach Troy Larsen. The move has worked out rather well.

“He has done a dynamite job,” Bartlow said. “Troy knows (the offense) really good. He has a few more things in his arsenal than T.J. had. We have a few more sets.

“I think we have grown a little bit offensively.”

Those are bold words considering how high-powered the Cardinals’ offense was in 2011, though the 2012 version is no slouch and will face Lind-Ritzville-Sprague at 2 p.m. Saturday at Lampson Stadium in the Class 2B state semifinals.

“When I first said I’d do it, I lay in bed at night thinking, ‘You don’t have Zach Bartlow, don’t have that line,’ ” Larsen said. “But I did have Billy Brown back and the best wide receiver in the B schools. Of course, look at today: Billy is gone, and Dalton (Estes) is at running back.

“No one is where I thought they’d be, but we’re still clicking pretty good.”

The Cardinals are averaging 37.2 points and 383.3 yards per game this season, and they have won eight consecutive games.

Part of the reason Larsen and his offense have been able to overcome the personnel shifts is because of the time he has put into the offense.

Larsen was a part of the switch five years ago from the wing-T to the spread option, and he knows the offense inside and out. He has gone to camps and spent a lot of time working on plays.

He even prepares a sheet with about 160 plays on it for every game, leaving no game situation to chance.

“I’m more of a patient chess player,” Larsen said of his coaching style. “(Scott) called (plays) off his gut. I’m a little more calculated.”

Larsen got his start coaching his son, Talen, in AAU. The Waitsburg native, his wife, Diana, and three kids moved to the tiny town 50 miles east of Pasco from Seattle 12 years ago. He later heard that Bartlow needed an assistant coach on the football staff and was hired.

In his years on the staff, he has juggled his coaching duties with working full time for Takeda Pharmaceuticals as a regional account manager. While he gets to work from home, he also must travel around the country periodically.

He rarely misses practice because of the traveling, though he was in Miami the week of the quarterfinals.

“I took discs with me and spent my airplane flight scouting,” Larsen said. “I emailed Bartlow what I wanted done at practice, and he’d email me back with what worked and what didn’t. Then I’d send him another list.”

Larsen rushed home from Miami, arriving at 2 a.m. Thursday morning, just in time to attend practice Thursday and Friday.

The ill-timed trip didn’t affect the team, as the offense was sparkling in a 39-12 victory against Reardan.

Larsen and company hope the offense can pull off at least one more spectacular game and earn a repeat trip to the Tacoma Dome and a state championship game. One very few people believed possible at the start of the season.

“I knew we’d have some wins under our belt, but I didn’t know what we’d be like,” Bartlow said. “I thought we would be in business and that we’d have a shot at making a nice run, but I know a lot of people didn’t think that.”

w Craig Craker: 582-1509; ccraker@tricityherald.com

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