Is Littlestown really running the ball more?

Dustin DeGroft (center) has been part of Littlestown effective ground game.

One of the big talking points from the Littlestown football team’s hot start to the season has been the supposed rediscovery of the Thunderbolts’ ground game. Through three weeks of the season, Littlestown has averaged 51.3 rush attempts per contest. The trend was the subject of the game story from the Thunderbolts’ opening win over Boiling Springs and a focal point of their Week 2 victory over Hanover.

For a team better known for its aerial attack, the emphasis on the run game seemed out of character.

Well, not exactly.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers to see if the narrative of Littlestown’s newfound ground game is really accurate.

First , let’s look at Littlestown’s play breakdown this season:

Opponent           Rushes     Pass att.
Boiling Springs      57                15
Hanover                 48                26
Delone Catholic     49                20
————————–
Total                     154              61

So Littlestown has run the ball 154 times in its first three games, or 71.6 percent of its offensive plays. On the phone Wednesday, Bolts coach Mike Lippy admitted that the 57 rushes in his team’s opening-night win against Boiling Springs was more than could ever remember Littlestown running.

When you look at the Bolts run/pass breakdown from the previous five seasons, however, the early-season numbers don’t seem that far out of whack.*

Year         Rushes     Pass att.     % of runs
2011          421              259               61.9
2010         432              215               66.8
2009         447              235               65.5
2008         293              257               53.3
2007         346              215               61.7

Only once in five seasons has Littlestown come close to passing the ball as many times as running it. And in four of those campaigns, the run-pass ratio was greater than 3-to-2.

So is Littlestown running the ball more this year? Yes. However, the Bolts also ran the ball 50 or more times on four different occasions last season. So it’s not a complete aberration.

We do see a disparity in terms of where Littlestown is getting its yards from this season. Through three games, the Bolts have registered 798 rushing yards compared to 358 passing yards. In past years, that split has been closer to 50-50.

The season is also only three games old, so we could see those totals even out as the year goes on.

Bottom line: Yes, Littlestown has run the ball slightly more during the first third of this season than it has in recent years. And yes, the Bolts are getting a greater portion of their offense from the ground game. But is Littlestown’s emphasis on the run a complete sea-change from what Lippy’s teams have done before? Not really. At the very least, three games is not a large enough sample size to indicate any serious trend.

The bigger story of Littlestown’s season, in my opinion, has been the development of the Bolts’ defense, which only returned a handful of starters from last season. I touched on that group a bit in our preview of Littlestown’s showdown with Biglerville on Friday.

* – All stats courtesy of Littlestown’s MaxPreps page.

About John Clayton

Prep sports writer at the York Daily Record/Sunday News.
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