By BRETT MARSHALL
When the British were coming during the Revolutionary War, there were indicators from which direction they were to arrive - one if by land, two if by sea - lanterns placed in the belfry of the Old North Church in Boston.
Back then, there was no arrival by air.
Times have changed and so they have in the football fortunes of the Wichita Collegiate Spartans.
It's a team that stands in the way of Scott City to earn a place in next week's Class 3A sub-state championship game.
The Spartans, many of whom played on the 2009 Class 3A state basketball championship team last March, are the high school version of Texas Tech's spread offense.
Or, in the words of Collegiate coach Bill Messamore, "think of Chase Daniels and Missouri the last couple of years."
Collegiate has thrown the ball for more than 3,000 yards in their 11 wins and senior quarterback Blake Jablonski (6-foot-2, 195) has connected with a bevy of wide receivers for 42 touchdowns.
"We use the pass to set up the run and that's been very effective for us all season," Messamore said. "We want to run to hurt the other team so we've run when we've wanted to. We're very talented and we throw the ball well."
Jablonski passes to a group of tall and athletic receivers. Brett Lemaster, a 6-3 wideout, has snared a team-high 51 catches for 1,088 yards (21.33 average) and 16 touchdowns. Right behind him is 6-6 tight end/slot Tre Bailey (48 catches, 684 yards, nine touchdowns). Add in Bryce Cornejo (32 receptions, 480 yards, seven touchdowns) and Brandon Searle (27-for-404 yards and five TDs) and there is little wonder why Messamore likes this group.
"I knew we'd be good offensively, just because we've got so many good athletes," Messamore said. "But we'd struggled in the past running the ball because we're just not that big up front."
What Messamore did then was to switch to his version of the spread offense, allowing two inexperienced senior linemen to mesh with three rookie sophomore linemen.
"They've done a great job of pass blocking, but we're certainly not going to line up and march 80 yards on the ground," Messamore said. "We move the ball through the air and that's just what works for us."
Defensively, the Spartans have improved as the year has progressed. Early in the season, they lost their top defender (6-1, 220-pound middle linebacker Tyler Coughenour) to injury, but he has since returned.
"He's our big play defensive guy," Messamore said. "He makes a big difference."
Messamore believes Scott City will pose the biggest challenge to his team this season.
"They'll be the best team we've seen," he said. "They're just the opposite of us. They run the ball well, but you can't confuse that because they throw the ball well, too. We'll have to shut the run down first to get us into the place we'd like to be on defense."
Messamore said that he has been impressed with the athleticism of the Beavers' defense.
"They're really quick, fast and are really built to stop the run," Messamore said. "Scott City has much fewer weaknesses to cover than the teams we've played so far. That will be our challenge."
Both Messamore and his counterpart, Glenn O'Neil, see the game much like chess.
"There will be a lot of little battles going on individually," O'Neil said. "It will come down to who wins more of those individual battles as to who wins the game."