Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Despite loss, Mustangs gain lifetime of memories

Despite loss, Mustangs gain lifetime of memories
By Jodie Wagner

Neighborhood Post Sports Writer

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dan Schlager shunned the 'Fun 'n' Gun' this season in favor of the snap and trap.

While researching offensive systems to use with his Jupiter Mustangs White Pee Wee tackle football team this season, the first-year head coach opted for a run-oriented system rather than one that emphasized passing.

"I probably spent up to three months reading different offensive systems and trying to figure out what was the most team-oriented out there to make everybody feel involved," Schlager said. "And when I found something, it just felt right."

Schlager's discovery - the single-wing offense - evolved from an offensive system favored by legendary college football coach Glenn 'Pop' Warner.

An offensive formation that features a core of four backs - a halfback, a fullback and two wingbacks - the system is run-oriented in nature and features a direct snap to one of the backs, misdirection, laterals, trap blocking and quick kicks.

The Mustangs ran it to perfection this season.

Using the single-wing offense, Jupiter went undefeated during the regular season and won the Pop Warner Football League's Treasure Coast Conference championship. The Mustangs later advanced to the second round of the Southeast regional tournament.

"It worked really well," assistant Mustangs coach Steve Rogers said of the single-wing system, which is used throughout youth, high school and college football. "It's almost like old school, with the rushing, misdirection, deception and execution. It takes a lot of practice. If you watch from the other side, you can't even tell who has the ball."

Touchdowns were even harder to spot.

"No one even knew who scored the touchdowns, and no one even cared," Schlager said. "When one scored, we all scored. We were just working as one."

Cohesiveness was key for the Mustangs this season, as Jupiter rolled through its regular-season schedule.

The Mustangs, who competed in the Treasure Coast Conference's South Division - opponents included Lake Park, Palm Beach Gardens, Royal Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Jupiter Gold, Jupiter Maroon and Jupiter Black - finished 8-0 and entered the playoffs favored to advance to the Treasure Coast Conference championship game.

"You could just tell that there was chemistry that we hadn't had before, and talent," Rogers said.

Both were on display during the playoffs.

Jupiter, which carried a roster of 27 players into the post-season, won its first two playoff games by a combined score of 64-12 - the Mustangs defeated Palm Beach Gardens White 36-6 and Jupiter Gold 28-6 - to win the Treasure Coast Conference South Division championship.

Jupiter then moved on to the conference title game Nov. 3 and dominated Palm City, winning 40-6 in Port St. Lucie.

A week later, the Mustangs defeated Coconut Grove 33-32 on a last-second play in overtime to win a Southeast regional tournament first-round game.

"Being that close to losing your first game and being that close to moving on to your ultimate dream, it was huge," Rogers said of the victory, which moved Jupiter into the second round of the regional playoffs. "And then beating a Miami team? Nobody said it could be done."

"We scored on the last play of the game, and the whole crowd came up," added Schlager. "There were tears of joy in every kids' eyes, and of every parent that I hugged."

Jupiter lost its second-round regional game on Nov. 17, falling to the South Tampa Titans in Miami to end its hopes of winning a national title.

But Schlager expects his players will carry enough memories from this season to last a lifetime.

"What we've accomplished, I think they'll remember forever," he said.

Team members are: Matthew Schreiber, Mikey Lay, Jr., Cody Wilson, Anthony Vandenberg, Colin Rogers, Matthew Beuttenmuller, Kevin Schlager, Devante Lillard, Chandler Holroyd, Robbie Nicol, Ronnie Downes, Dillon Wilson, Devon Bradford, Tyler Coliskey, Dylan Petzold, Eric Gvozdneovich, Nick Irion, Maxwell Jones, Zachary Strayer, Matthew Flenniken, Kyle Forbes, Benjamin Ray, Zachary Javor, Aaron Collins, Tristan Fisher, Jared Kellogg and Grant Wrightson.

The Palm Beach Post
P.O. Box 24700
West Palm Beach, FL

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