Sunday, August 31, 2008

Stopping the Single-Wing

By Shane Mettlen
Published: August 29, 2008

To some it’s a throwback to the days when football was played with leather helmets and the forward pass was a novelty. To others it’s the cutting edge, a way a sly young coach such as Florida’s Urban Meyer can take advantage of his most gifted athletes.

To Eastern View coach Greg Hatfield, the single-wing is the offense his Cyclones must figure out to beat Louisa.

“The thing that makes the single-wing difficult is obviously all the misdirection,” Hatfield said. “You have the spinner series where the quarterback is going to turn and you have one back go one way and one back go the other way and the quarterback goes a third way. So if you sit there and watch the paint dry on the fence, you’re going to get hit.”

The legendary coach Pop Warner invented the single-wing in the early 1900s because the formation — with its unbalanced line and “wing back” in position behind the tight end — helped him best utilize the speed of future Hall of Famer Jim Thorpe. A century later, Meyer was employing formations that resembled the single-wing at Florida, making quarterback Tim Tebow a household name before he even became the starter in Gainesville.

But in some corners of the football world the single-wing is neither a relic, nor a gimmick. It’s just the offense. So it is in Louisa, where the Lions lined up with a wingback and ran all the way to the state title game in 2006.

Louisa had a down year last year, going 3-7 and 3-3 in the Jefferson District, but this season is prepared to reload after the JV Lions went 11-0. Fortunately for Eastern View, Hatfield has a little previous experience at defending the single-wing.

Osbourn Senior High School in the Cedar Run District, where Hatfield coached Fauquier before taking the Eastern View job, employs the single-wing at times and used it to help win a state championship in 2006. Of course there are differences between what the Eagles have done in the past and what the Lions will do tonight.

“Osbourn did it on the goal line,” Hatfield said. “They just used it as a goal line package so they were a little more limited in what they did. Plus when they did it you knew who was going to get the ball. That’s why Louisa is so tough. They have a lot of guys that can run it.”

The Cyclone players studied the single-wing this week in practice and have a respect for the Lions and their running game.

“We’re looking forward to a good game with Louisa,” EVHS senior Blake Smith said. “They got a good program down there and this will be a hard fought game. Not last year, but the year before, they were in the states so we know they have a tough program.”

Despite the unique attack of the Lions, the Cyclones aren’t changing their basic approach and will play the modified 4-3 defense that limited Culpeper to 102 yards of total offense in their scrimmage last week. Hatfield said his team will have to be aggressive to limit the effectiveness of the Lions’ misdirection.

“We’ll keep our concepts on defense the same,” he said. “We put pressure on. We like to attack. We will play around with our alignments somewhat, but we won’t change the concepts. I think the worst thing you can do with a single-wing is just sit there and let it come to you.”
The Culpeper Star-Exponent
471 James Madison Highway,
Suite 201
Culpeper, VA 22701
Louisa County High School
757 Davis HwyMineral, VA 23117

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