ESCALON -- Phillip Kimble was brought up to play quarterback for Escalon High, taking his initial snap as a fifth-grader for the Escalon Outlaws youth team.
"They teach you the Wing-T right away in Escalon," said Kimble, who has been taking snaps ever since. "The more I run the offense, the more I discover what I can do with it."
It's more than just giving it to 2,000-yard fullback Nathan Chunn, or flipping quick passes to a tight end in the open.
One thing they'll demand in Escalon, above all else, is that the quarterback be a winner. If everything else fails, it's up to Kimble to save the season.
Last Friday, against one of the state's top medium-school teams, that meant transforming this blunt instrument into a quick-strike weapon.
"The pieces are there for us to throw, with a strong offensive line and a great receiver like Alec (VonAlvensleben)," said Kimble, whose Cougars (10-2) made state news by upsetting Placer 27-26 in the section quarterfinal. "But we're a Wing-T team, we run. They teach you that right away."
The first lesson coach Mark Loureiro teaches his quarterbacks is how to manage pressure. It's a good thing, too, because it comes in the playoffs.
It was there when Escalon, trailing 26-24 with 2 minutes to go, began a drive from its 8. VonAlvensleben got 25 yards on a bubble screen, following his linemen upfield, and two more catches took it into Placer territory. The 6-foot VonAlvensleben outjumped a 6-4 defender for a 35-yard play that put the ball inside Placer's 10.
"Placer knew it was coming and we still got the fade route for a big gain," VonAlvensleben, who has been among the region's top receivers the second half of the season. "We're a team that spends a lot of extra time working on plays."
The fade requires a receiver both athletic and fast, and there always seems to be one of those around campus. That route also is among the base plays in the Wing-T scheme.
There aren't that many, admits Loureiro, perhaps a half-dozen plays. It's all of the distractions he layers over a fullback dive that makes it work.
"It's like a house. I'll put up new drapes one week, and the next I'll slap on a new coat of paint," Loureiro said. "I have the same house, but you don't see that behind all the color."
That's why Placer couldn't be sure VonAlvensleben was running the fade the catch to set up Thomas Diniz's field goal on the game's final play.
"If there is a just a moment of doubt, that's enough for me to get a step on the defender," VonAlvensleben said. "I also can pick up a lot by watching film, seeing how DBs play."
Kimble might see more film than his coach. That explains his confidence in the offense.
"I like to think I'm in coach Lou's head, thinking of what play is next, or what we'll run to set up the play after that," said Kimble, who threw only 11 passes as a junior reserve.
Usually it's sending Chunn into the line, where he shreds defenders while churning upfield. He has a school-record 2,014 rushing yards, and 31 TDs. If Chunn is the heart of this team, Kimble's the brain.
"This is one of the smartest teams I've had in 24 seasons," Loureiro said. "They're in Advanced Placement, they're so focused. There are no issues.
"Phillip's been running the offense so long that he knows how to approach a game. Everything we do has a purpose. It might not look like it at the time, but Phillip sees how the defense reacts and we'll come back to that later in a game."
Kimble has pedestrian stats for an era dominated by passers: 1,445 yards and 10 TDs.
"Is Phil there when we need him? You bet!" Loureiro said. "Not many kids could have directed that last drive, looking over at that USC linemen (6-4, 305-pound recruit Eddie Vanderdoes) and not flinching."Second-Half Surge
It's been a tale of two halves for Alec VonAlvensleben. On The Bee's preseason all-Stanislaus District team, he didn't have a touchdown the first half of the season and averaged two catches a game. He has four 100-yard receiving games in the last five weeks, and had four catches on last week's game-winning drive.