It’s Friday, and that means another night of high school football. Our Saturday morning sports updates are increasingly filled with outrageous blowout scores–as a growing number of schools see a migration of good athletes away from the sport–leaving those left behind to get pounded on a weekly basis. Last week’s spreads in the Fox Valley included losses by 42, 51 and 70-points–not to mention several involving the magic 35-point deficit that triggers a running clock under WIAA rules. A quick check shows many of those teams on the not-so-funny end of those “laughers” are yet to win a game this year.
By it’s very nature, football is the one sport where the team with less talent, strength and speed has little chance to hang with a better opponent. You can’t stall and hold the ball in the middle of the field like in basketball. One good player can’t shut down the other team like a baseball pitcher. And there is no hot goalie to stop every scoring attempt like in hockey or soccer. You gotta have 22-guys that can play, or you are going to get hammered.
But might I suggest to the coaches of these struggling programs that they try something that might actually make you a bit more competitive? Try something radically different. And by radically different, I don’t mean blitz more on first down or add the jet sweep to your offensive package. I’m talking about switching to the Single Wing Offense.
If one of those coaches were here in the studio right now you would probably see them rolling their eyes at that suggestion. The Single Wing is seen as “archaic”–it was invented by Pop Warner–and no self-respecting “offensive genius” would think about running it today. But consider it was designed for use by teams that are smaller and slower than their opponents. Misdirection and trap blocking limit the need for huge offensive linemen or backs with 4.3 speed. And the general reliance on running means the clock keeps ticking–shortening the amount of time the other team can have the ball to score.
The biggest advantage to running the Single Wing is that it’s almost impossible to prepare for. Opposing scout teams can pick up the Spread/Read Option fairly quickly today because everyone runs the Spread/Read Option. But who has a Single Wing playbook? And how many centers are trained in directional snapping to one of the two backs in the backfield? And how many of those backs are used to throwing passes on the rollout? How many quarterbacks line up behind the tackle and throw blocks or take inside reverse tosses? Running the Single Wing may not score you many wins, but it should keep the other team on their heels for at least a half while your run every possible option at them in the playbook.
And if these coaches are concerned about their reputations, then try the slightly more modern offenses like the Wing T or the Wishbone–which also rely on quick timing option plays that can confuse better defenses and give you a chance to hang onto the ball longer than a 3-and-out throwing three incompletions out of the Spread.
We consider “great coaches” today to be guys that dream up elaborate offensive schemes that chuck the ball all over the place and put up big numbers. I’d rather have a coach that realizes the limitations of his team and finds the system that gives them the best chance to succeed every week. Or least not lose by 70.