The offensive line blocks them from view, which puts pressure on defenses to find the ball. They are wingbacks Aiden Lowery, Ethan Stacey and Malachi Ringer. Each of them stands 5-feet, 7 inches and weighs a little more than 160 pounds. Wright, comparatively, is a robust 5-7 and 210. They are the Eagles’ Four Wingmen in head coach Earl White’s double-wing offense. They block for each other, root for each other, play hard for each other and love each other.
“These are my brothers, and we all work hard, and we all push each other to be our best on the field,” Lowery said.
There’s nothing magical about the offense. But the sleight of hand, fake handoffs and misdirection on every play under the direction of 6-0 sophomore quarterback Isaac Sullivan are enough to produce a now you see them, now you don’t reaction for everyone in the stadium. The ball is hard to find as Sullivan and the backs carry out their fakes. And when the defense finally catches a glimpse of who has the ball, it’s often too late.
“I love the offense because our offensive line is great and there’s always open holes,” Stacey said.
Sullivan’s role, though he doesn’t run often and throws even less, is critical to the offense’s success. White likens Sullivan’s quick hands to that of a Las Vegas card dealer.
“It’s his poise,” Lowery said. “He’s very calm as a first-year starter. He has a lot of confidence in himself, and he really has command of the offense. He has a good IQ of how to read things. He’ll tell Coach White to call a play if he sees it, and it’s most likely going to be a positive play.”
White, who previously coached at Belmont, brought the offense to CJ when he replaced Marcus Colvin, who left to coach Beavercreek. Under Colvin the Eagles balanced the run and pass. But the double-wing relies heavily on the running game.
“It looks different than what they see on TV,” White said. “I just tell the kids it’s about doing something great. And then it’s about doing other things efficient. So we want to be a phenomenally great running team and an efficient passing team.”
The players, of course, weren’t sure about this new offense that emphasized the run and demanded they perfect every move, every step, every fake on every play.
“I’m just now starting to see that it actually works,” Wright said. “No matter how many times we run the ball, other teams just can’t figure out how to stop it. And when they key on the fakes, it opens up big runs for all of us backs.”
Through five games the Eagles (4-1) are averaging 7.1 yards a carry and have thrown only nine passes. Wright has 501 yards and six touchdowns on 54 carries, Stacey has 493 yards and 10 touchdowns on 66 carries and Ringer has 385 yards and three touchdowns on 54 carries. For four games, however, the Four Wingmen suffered from a broken wing. Lowery missed those games while recovering from a hamstring injury.
Lowery, who White calls the team’s inspirational leader, was the Eagles’ best back last year with 633 rushing yards and 235 receiving yards until he suffered a broken leg in the sixth game and missed the rest of the season. He made the foursome complete last week in his return with 83 yards on eight carries in a 28-7 victory over Edgewood.
“It’s great to have Aiden back,” Stacey said. “Last year I didn’t really do much, and this year I get to play with Aiden, and I was so excited to have him back.”
Lowery wanted to be playing, but he never doubted his wingmen would lead the Eagles to victories.
“They never went into a game thinking we could lose,” he said. “They never go into a game thinking that anybody can outrun them, anybody can tackle them.”
Lowery, Stacey and Ringer will now rotate through the two wingback positions. “I finally get to have breaks now since he’s back,” Ringer said, and they all laughed.
The Eagles know their offensive scheme — quarterback under center, fullback behind him, two tight ends and the wingbacks just outside the tight ends and off the line of scrimmage — makes them difficult for defenses to prepare for.
“What we like to see people do is come out of what they normally do in order to overcompensate to stop what we’re doing,” White said. “That gives us a plus because a lot of people are running the same thing. But then when they play us, they throw everything out of the window and just kind of start from scratch.”
The Four Wingmen begin Greater Catholic League Co-Ed play Friday night at Cincinnati McNicholas. They know their team must play well to soar at a high level in their five league games.
“We all bring something different to the game,” Lowery said. “Ethan can make a big play any time, Ringer can make a big play, Nydrell can make a big play, I can make a big play any time. That’s what’s hard to stop. It can really go anywhere, anytime.”