Not many teams run an offense quite like George Washington does. Then again, not many teams have a quarterback like R.T. Alexander.
Alexander, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound junior, has directed the Patriots into the second round of the playoffs — just their second quarterfinal berth in six seasons.
The No. 7 seed, GW (8-3) travels to No. 2 Cabell Midland (11-0), the Mountain State Athletic Conference champion, for a 7:30 p.m. game Friday. The winner advances to the state semifinals the following weekend.
Alexander caught fire over the second half of the season and comes into Friday’s game with 2,272 yards and 28 touchdowns passing. He’s completed 153 of 251 attempts (61 percent). He’s also taken over as the team’s top rusher with 280 yards and one TD following a season-ending injury to tailback D’Anthony Wright.
Starting with the sixth game of the regular season, Alexander’s numbers have improved greatly. Since that time, he’s averaged 253 yards per game with 19 TDs and six interceptions, completing 64 percent of his throws. Before that, it was 150 yards per game, nine TDs, four interceptions and 58 percent completions.
“He has the choice of what he’s going to do,’’ said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. “We’ve got reads over everything and everybody’s running what they’re running. His job is to find it and make it work. He does a real good job.
“The best part about it is he can stretch plays out and has good instincts back there. We’re going to get a lot of pressure from their defense, and hopefully he can continue to do what he’s done.’’
Alexander, being tutored by former Nitro and St. Albans coach and quarterback guru Scott Tinsley, has been sacked 27 times and thrown 10 interceptions, but that’s a side effect from an offense that registers 74 percent of its offense from the passing game.
As Midland coach Luke Salmons noted, the way GW presents its pass-game attack is not what you normally see at the high school level. Alexander takes a deep drop much of the time, even when he accepts the snap in shotgun formation. Depending on the play, he takes a three-, five- or seven-step drop, with a five-step drop out of shotgun formation the most prevalent.
That puts him well behind the line of scrimmage when he releases a pass, which helps give him an extra second to avoid the pass rush, but he also has the arm strength to negate the yards lost by all the backtracking.
“It’s a little bit different,’’ Salmons said. “Coach Tinsley did some of that when he was at St. Albans, and a few year ago at Hurricane as well [when Tinsley was an assistant coach there]. They took deeper drops. It’s different what they do, but [Alexander] does a good job of still getting the ball where it needs to be, and the receivers do a good job running their routes.’’
Twice in the first five games of the season, Alexander was held under 100 yards in the air and had just 138 against Spring Valley. But in his last six starts, he’s been below 200 yards just once, that coming in last week’s first-round playoff win against Huntington when he just missed with 195 yards.
Alexander has also taken more of an active role as a runner, gaining 76 yards last week against the Highlanders and 50 yards the week before in a win versus Capital, also running for a score.
“Our offensive line is doing a good job and they’re getting better,’’ Edwards said. “They’ve opened up some holes and R.T. is a hell of an athlete. He’s a real good athlete.’’
The GW-Midland matchup, interestingly, brings the MSAC to sort of a full circle this season. The league produced nine Class AAA playoff teams this season, and both the Patriots and Knights met the other seven during the regular season, but didn’t play each other. They take care of that Friday.