Tuesday, November 28, 2006
In today's Daily Progress, an article entitled Louisa leaving opponents befuddled discusses another regional team that has adopted the singe-wing. The story of how Louisa coach Mark Fischer decided to run this offense is right out of the movies.
ESPNClassic was showing the 1940 biopic “Knute Rockne: All-American” starring Ronald Reagan, and it didn’t take Fischer long to notice something different about the offensive formations in the film.
“I happened to see glimpses of something that looked pretty appealing,” said Fischer, who left the Richmond school in 2003 to take over at Louisa County. “So I got on the Internet and started doing searches and I found out that was the single-wing.”
After watching Reagan portray Rockne that night in 2001, Fischer started getting in touch with other high school coaches that ran the system and bought John Aldirch’s book on the offense and began to experiment with the new system.
“I literally put the offense in looking at the book in practice,” Fischer said. “I was holding the book, looking at it and saying, ‘OK, you run up here, you do this.’ I went straight from the book.”
It apparently worked out, as Fischer's team is 12-0. Of course the single-win runs best with a stud tailback, and Lousia apparently has that in Todd Shelton, who has rushed for more than 2,300 yards and 32 touchdowns in 12 games. But what makes the singe-wing so successful is that virtually no one plays it, so few know how to defend it. With three or four backs positioned to potentially receive the snap on every play, the single-wing is nothing like anything most kids have seen before.
“We’re hopefully putting 14- or 15-year-old linebackers in the position to have to make the split-second decision of who got that ball,” Fischer said.
“It’s tough for them to simulate that in practice,” said Fischer, whose team will play host to Powhatan on Saturday in the Division 4 state semifinals. “It’s tough for them to get the steps and the snaps and those sorts of things. We take away from your practice time, and that helps us a little bit.”
Fluvanna coach Joel Gray said the most difficult thing to prepare for in Fischer’s offense is the different blocking packages he throws at the opponent.
“When we try to prepare for it, we don’t even put any backs in the backfield,” Gray said. “We have the center snap the ball to me and we just give our kids blocking schemes and key in on nothing but the blocks. Because if you miss in the backfield against that, it’s over.”
All four of my boys played on teams that used Tubby Raymond's Delaware Wing-T (http://www.fbforyouth.com/wing-t.htm)- a highly confusing, misdirection offense that closely resembled a Chines fire drill. Our school and players were small compared to others in our league in New York's Westchester County, yet they ended up in a bowl game every year. Opposing coaches had a tough time preparing for us.
BTW, TH, our youngest son, (top grades, 780 math SAT and all everything in FB/LAX)was heavily recruited by Princeton. My boss at Merck was a Lawrenceville Prep and Princeton undergrad/PhD, and I almost bought the old Kearney house on the Lawrenceville Road. So I spent many pleasant times visiting the town, campus and attending games. I strongly urged my son to accept. Alas, he had other ideas. Such is life!
Of course what Charlottesvillain doesn't mention is that the prep school we both attended, not L'ville BTW, used the single wing well after the other schools in our league abandoned it. Several of our players went on to PU and played it there as well.
Single wing was also referred to as three yards and a cloud of dust. Among other features was the pulling guard, who, instead of blocking forward would step back and run behind the line around the weak end in front of the wingback who would have run around from the right side and taken a hand off from the tailback who got the snap. The tailback takes the snap, steps forward half a pace and spins in a clockwise direction placing the ball firmly in the wingback's stomach when he's facing away from the line. Or maybe he doesn't hand it off. In either event he completes his spin and crashes the line. There was a lot of double-team, high-low blocking on the line. Back then what linemen now do routinely would have been called as holding. Backfield timing was critical.
It's a shame that single wing isn't used more in high school and youth leagues. The emphasis is on the running game rather than passing and there are few very good passers at high school age.
Contrary to the quoted article. Ronald Reagan didn't play Knute Rockne, that was Pat O'Brien, he actually portrayed George "the Gipper" Gipp a ND legend who died young.
JLW III, I'm not sure where you went but I most certainly attended L'ville. I didn't play varsity there but did played Circle House football for Hamill. My junior year I played the center position in a single-wing offense for Chuck "the puck" Weeden. Anyway, wherever you went, you obviously learned a thing or two about the single-wing. Its reverses are among its deadliest weapons.
We ran a single wing in grade school. Our team went on the win the city title. But, then no one scored on us all year either.
This team was the foundation of the Permian High School football tradition, later to be written about in Friday Night Lights.
My son, L'ville '96, also played single wing football for Chuck Weeden. Chuck had already retired, but there was a problem with the Housemaster at my son's circle house, Griswold, and the housemaster was let go. They called Chuck out of retirement in the fall of 1994.
L'ville house football is incredible. The fall jocks for football, soccer, etc. don't play so the houses have to go pretty deep in the roster to get players. Full gear, full contact. Typically the play is determined by winter and spring jocks taking the fall off to "study" some. My son, Hockey/Lacrosse, was the fullback on his team.
For more on Chuck Weeden see:
He was a fantastic molder of boys into men.