Black Hills’ Freeto, Stone a tough one-two punch

Black Hills Football TeamBy: Gail Wood

Not only will Black Hills have first-year starters at quarterback and running back this season, but Wolves coach Jack Zilla will also take a different approach to his play calling.

Rather than feature one player, handing off to the running back 35 times in a game, Zilla will spread that offensive load.

“We don’t really have one go-to guy,” said Zilla, who is beginning his 14th season as the Wolves head coach. “There’s about four go-to guys.”

That means quarterback Josh Freeto, running back Cameron Stone and a couple of sure-handed wide receivers will share that offensive load. It will be score-by-committee for the Wolves.

“In the past, I’ve been willing to feature a really great athlete,” Zilla said. “We can’t rely on one player this season. It’s got to be a total team effort.”

Stone, a 5-10, 190-pound senior, switched from wide receiver to running back. He showed a knack for breaking tackles last season in the yards he picked up after the catch. Stone doesn’t have that lightning, breakaway speed. But he’s tough to tackle.

“Cameron is a tough, strong kid,” Zilla said. “He works hard in the weight room. He does exactly what he’s coached to do. He’s a great kid.”

Freeto, at 6-foot and 190 pounds, is a double threat, showing promise as a runner and passer. He’s what Zilla needs to make the Wolves’ option offense out of the shutgun work.

“Now, it’s Josh’s year,” Zilla said. “He can run the ball. He throws the ball decent. He makes good audibles, good decisions on game day.”

Freeto doesn’t get rattled under pressure. He showed that in his one varsity start last season when starter Trent Alsin was hurt. He also got about 40 snaps in relief duty for Alsin.

“That start helps a lot,” the senior quarterback said. “We have a lot of guys who have been working hard.”

Freeto will have the option to tuck the ball and run. Alsin frequently did that with success the last two seasons, earning all-league honors as a running back and not quarterback. Freeto will have an experienced crop of receivers to throw to. Kalvin Hargrave, Shayne Robinson and Matt McDonald all started last season.

“Receiver is one of the areas where we’re a little deep,” Zilla said.

Black Hills returns five starters on offense and six on defense. Two starters return in the offensive line – Jacob Crawford, 6-2, 235 pounds, and Kyle Dunn, 5-11 and 200 pounds.

“Jake Crawford is a big part of what we’re doing offensively and defensively,” Zilla said.

To fill out that offensive line, Zilla expects to start at least one sophomore.

“Zach Grate is the only sophomore who has broken in on the top five in the line right now,” Zilla said. “We have a couple more who need a couple more practices. We’re not particularly big. But we’ve got a good group of kids.”

While Black Hills doesn’t have a lot of size in the offensive line, it does have quickness. In Zilla’s zone blocking scheme, he admits it’s better to have good feet than big bodies.

“But the zone blocking concept takes a lot of reps to get it,” Zilla said. “It will be a couple of games before we feel comfortable with what we’re doing. We’re just going to go as hard as we can.”

In the past when running backs like Cody Peterson were the feature backs, Zilla said the misconception was that the Wolves offense was one dimensional.

“That’s far from the truth,” Zilla said. “When Cody was the league MVP, we always had another all-league running back.”

Black Hills doesn’t have that dominate player this season who is a game breaker. Instead, they’ll rely on several players.

“We should have a pretty good offense,” Freeto said.

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