Monday, September 24, 2007

A single wing and a prayer

A single wing and a prayer
Old-school offense helps boost JDHS

With Friday's game against West Valley well in hand, the Juneau-Douglas High School football team played some old-school football in the fourth quarter.
How old school? How about before Alaska statehood old.

The Crimson Bears' offense employed the single wing formation against the Wolfpack in the fourth quarter. Juneau-Douglas' Lincoln Maka proved the beneficiary of the quirky offense, taking a reverse 34 yards for a score.

"There was some nostalgia for me," Juneau-Douglas coach Bill Chalmers said Friday about Maka's score. "When I was in high school, it was called the 16-reverse. Now it's the 133. When it went in for the score, it was like 1955."

The single wing dates back to the 1940s and 50s. During this era, a forward pass was a rarity as teams opted to run on nearly every play.

Instead of relying on a decision-making quarterback to run the offense, the single wing doesn't really have a quarterback at all. Rather, a direct snap to a tailback who will either run or hand off starts the play. The single wing also features a host of tight ends and running backs on one side of the offensive line, giving the formation a very lopsided look.

Straight-ahead runs or misdirection plays based from the single wing can sometimes leave defenses grasping at air.

"What the deal was was at the end of last year I knew we didn't have a quarterback going into the season," said JDHS offensive coordinator Rich Sjoroos. "I was researching offenses and came across the single wing and how it wasn't built around a quarterback but a series of running backs. I thought what a tailor-made deal for Silver Maake and Alex Fagerstrom."

The Crimson Bears eventually solved their quarterback dilemma by recruiting Ryan "Bubba" Larson from the basketball team, but Sjoroos kept the single wing around.

It made its debut against Colony, but with limited results as it gained just nine yards on four plays.

"I thought we'd save it for the playoffs, but we practiced it against West Valley and you bet you'll see it against Rainier (on Saturday at home)," Sjoroos said.

The single wing has mostly gone the way of 8-track cassettes, Betamax VCRs and the Atari 2600 as it evolved into the more common Wing-T offense seen today.

However, the single wing continues to have a small but loyal following.

Sjoroos said he got information on the offense via instructional videos from Johnston City High School from Illinois. Coach Mike Rude used the single wing in Johnston City to reach the Illinois playoffs 12 times in 16 years, according to Southern Illinois newspaper The Southern Illinoisan.

There is also a National Single Wing Coaches Association which preaches the gospel of the venerable offense. The group meets every year to discuss and teach all things single wing.


JDHS defensive coordinator Eddie Brakes' crew continued to show its speed and power in Friday's 68-14 win.

The Crimson Bears limited West Valley to -72 rushing yards, administered eight quarterback sacks and forced four turnovers in the win. The only blemishes in Friday's game came in the form of two long touchdown passes from West Valley quarterback Sam McKinstry to wide receiver Nick Herzberg.

Despite beating teams by an average of 28 points, the thirst for perfection continues to drive the Bears.

"I was talking to Silver on Saturday and asked him how he felt because that was his debut of playing a lot of defense," Brakes said. "I asked him if we handled them good and he said, 'Too many yards. I don't like those passes.' That seems to be the mentality of the defense. They're stingy, work hard and feel like they deserve that perfect game."

The next challenge for Juneau will be Rainier High School from Rainier, Ore. The Columbians are 4-0 and have allowed just nine points.

While this game doesn't have any bearing on the upcoming playoffs, a powerful Lower 48 school serves as a terrific test and lead-in for the postseason.

"It's exciting bringing a Lower 48 team up," Brakes said. "One of the most exciting things is showing the community support we have."


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