Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bliss has single wing for Tigers

Bliss has single wing for Tigers
By Art Voellinger
Saturday, March 8, 2008 1:53 PM CST

When I first learned that Mark Bliss, the new head football coach of the Edwardsville High School Tigers, is a proponent of a single wing offense, I had to shock my memory to recall the last time I had watched a team employ that offense.

Sure enough, it was run by Chaminade High School years ago against Belleville Althoff, but even retired Crusaders Coach Glenn Schott could not put an exact year on the game.

"It was sometime in the 1970s," said Schott. "There coach was the late Don Ohlms who was renowned for running the single wing."They had two outstanding offensive linemen, ran that offense very well, and beat us," said Schott.

When I told Schott that Bliss, age 44, with a 111-34 record in 13 years as a head coach has been quoted as saying that he runs the single wing with a spread offense and no huddle, Schott sighed.

"He's going to wreak havoc," said Schott, who recalled his collegiate playing days as a linebacker at Southeast Missouri State and the single wing of Carson-Newman (Tenn.) College that featured double team blocking at the point of attack.

"He can run it with an unbalanced line, with no one under the center, and with a wing back, blocking back, fullback and tailback," said Schott.

"I remember when we played Chaminade at the (Belleville) Township Stadium, a fan yelled 'where's the quarterback?' when they lined up."

"He'll have an advantage the first couple of years because teams normally do not play against the single wing," Schott said of Bliss. "It's going to cause opponents to adjust."

According to Schott, there are several plays that can be run off the single wing, and there are variations of the formation, including what was run last season by the University of Florida and Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Tim Tebow.

Research shows that the Pittsburgh Steelers were the last team in the National Football League to use the single wing in 1947 before converting to the more popular T-formation.

In the 1960s, Green Bay Coach Vince Lombardi was asked: "What would happen if someone came out with a single wing offense?"

"It would embarrass the hell out of us," said Lombardi.

Listed on the Internet as one of a few high school coaches in the country to use the single wing, Bliss has coached at six schools, including Las Animas, Colo., Blackwell, Okla., Palmetto Ridge (Naples, Fla.), and Derby (Kansas) High.

In his last two seasons, he was 6-4 in 2006 and 8-3 in 2007 at Odessa, Mo., High School. However, from 2001-2004, he led Conway Springs (Kansas) High to four Class 3A state titles.

A former prep All-America quarterback at Medford, Okla., Bliss played two seasons at Tulsa, Okla., before completing his bachelor's degree in physical education at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan.

In addition to being well traveled as a coach, Bliss has experienced highs and lows.

In the early going before being part of a 62-game win streak at Conway Springs, he coached teams on a practice field that had been used for rodeos and was laden with cow chips. At Derby High, his team went winless.

At Edwardsville, as a replacement for the highly successful Tim Dougherty (132-40 in 16 seasons, including seven Southwestern Conference titles and two state Class 7A second places in 2001 and 2002), Bliss faces an enormous challenge.

While sending teams to 12 playoff appearances, Dougherty, who will move on to Lincoln Way Central in New Lenox, Ill., was a master of detail and preparation.

According to Schott, the single wing should make the challenge easier for Bliss as well as the football tradition and interest at Edwardsville.

St. Clair County Journal
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