DENVER -- Tom McCartney has long been a double wing guy. He borrowed concepts from Phil Bravo, who mastered the rush-heavy offense at Centaurus and now Monarch. It's only recently that McCartney has become this spread guru whose teams throw it all over the place.
McCartney's experience with the double wing is paying off. And now, the Fairview coach has his Knights switching between the two vastly different offensive schemes at a moment's notice throughout games.
Saturday, in the Class 5A football championship against Valor Christian, Fairview hopes that provides an edge of sorts.
"It's a different personality that you have to prepare for," said Valor Christian coach Rod Sherman.
Fairview has thrown for 3,786 yards this season, the most in the state among all classes. Dakota Ridge is second -- more than 1,000 yards behind -- with 2,729. The Knights can sling it.
Yet, when Fairview needs short-yardage -- be that on a third-and-1 or deep inside the red zone -- it overhauls its offense. Record-setting receiver Sam Martin and super wideout Cam Frazier turn into running backs. Owen Harris, normally a slot guy, also moves to the backfield. At times, the Knights even bring in 6-foot, 233-pound linebacker Daniel Hoskins.
"It's a lot of fun. It's a little more smash-mouth football," said Frazier, who had a rushing touchdown out of the formation in Fairview's semifinal win over ThunderRidge. "It's pretty much just trying to get that extra yard when it's fourth-and-1, or third-and-1. It's a lot of fun, and I think we're pretty good at it.
"Most teams like to sub in their big guys for it, but if we go fast enough, we can catch them off-guard which is pretty effective. It's just another thing defenses have to worry about."
If Fairview can run the play before the defense can substitute, "that's maybe one of the only times we have a size advantage," quarterback Anders Hill said.
Ten different Fairview players have scored rushing touchdowns this season. Running back Jason Harvey has five, Martin and Hill each have four, while Frazier and Harris each have three. It's Hoskins, though, who leads the way with seven scores.
"He's one of the strongest kids to ever come to Fairview," Hill said of Hoskins. "We know that if we give him the ball down on the goal line, or if we just need 1 yard to get the first down, that he and the whole O-line is going to do that."
McCartney picked up the offense in the late 1990s because "we weren't very good at short yardage," he said.
"We wanted a better plan to move the ball when it was short-yardage when the field was shrunk, to have a plan to get in the end zone," McCartney said. "Or at the end of the game, if we needed to run the clock out. Or if we get pinned inside the 10. So it meets a lot of different needs for us."
So why isn't Fairview exclusively a double wing team?
"It's all about what you can execute," McCartney said. "There are some years that we can execute the double-wing better. So maybe we spend more time in that. But when we're able to execute some of the things in the spread at a high level, there are some times we don't even take a snap in the double wing."
Clearly, this year's bunch is suited for both.
"They're up for it," McCartney said. "They just want to be on the field."
Fairview was last at this point during the 2002 season. The Knights also to the 2001 championship game, but lost both times. Fairview hasn't won a championship since 1987.
"We all really want to do it for coach Mac," Hill said. "He's been here for 21 years. He's a great coach; he's left a long legacy. Not only for just our high school, but the whole city."
Add Frazier: "It's been 11 years since we've been to a title game, and we've never played at a title game at Sports Authority. So it's a big step. I remember watching the '09 team go to the semifinals and looking up to them. It's just big for the whole town."