By Neil H. Devlin
The Denver Post
Posted: 12/18/2008 12:30:00 AM MST
Fun football isn't about selling yourself as much as it is buying into those around you.
So Terrell Owens would probably have trouble becoming an Akron Ram.
Call them quaint, but call them committed.
"The key is getting kids to be able to do things not to get the publicity," coach Brian Christensen said. "Blocking, tackling, not caring who gets the credit . . . It's doing the things it takes that don't get the glory."
The Denver Broncos 2008 high school coach of the year, Christen- sen gets more glory than he cares for, but what is he to do when running the northeastern Colorado machine that sets the schoolboy pace?
In November, Akron won its third consecutive Class 1A title, Christen- sen's fifth since taking over in 1996. The Rams have won 39 games in a row, including 20 shutouts. They won 38 straight from 2001-03. His career mark is 138-22, 36-8 in the postseason.
"It's an amazing feeling," the 37-year-old said. "You have to have talent, obviously, but growing up in this community, there are hardworking kids who have summer jobs and a strong sense of work ethic."
Born in Brush, Christensen, the son of a farmer-rancher, is well-versed in Akron's ways, having lived there since the second grade. Like many Rams past, present and future, he went through youth, junior high and high school play as a Ram, where the single-wing offense is embraced and 3-4 defense is imposed — the Rams allowed only 40 points in 2008.
"To me, that's the common denominator of championship teams, great defense," he said.
Not many others operate out of the single wing, but when considering the NFL's sudden widespread usage of unconventional wildcat sets, perhaps he should be referred to as intelligent instead of prehistoric.
Despite one of the game's most basic offenses thought to be all but abandoned long ago, the single wing continues to survive the test of time (outside of Denver and in smaller classes) and is handed down among Akron friends — Christensen counts a couple of former players, his brother-in-law, his pastor and his former prep coach (school principal Carl Rice) as assistants.
"It has a lot of tradition, but at the same time I think it's different, and that's an attraction, too," Christen- sen said. "We feel like it becomes an advantage in the playoffs. The (league) teams know you have to play it that week, but to prepare for it (in the playoffs) makes it more difficult."
Christensen knows it inside and out, from the spinner who takes the center snap to the defender who tries to stop it. In 1985, he was a freshman linebacker on the Rams' first title team. Apparently, most parts are interchangeable — by the time he was a senior, he was switched from offensive line to running back. Knowing your place, he said, is vital: "It doesn't have to be about seeking personnel attention."
It's a theme that works at Akron, where there's virtually no specialization and less allure by city-fueled distractions. Obviously, there are fewer video games being played at a school within one student of 8-man football enrollment (125).
"It's a neat thing for kids in a smaller community," Christensen said. "Kids here can be a part of every club, three-sport athletes . . . Some people, they think they don't have the opportunities of bigger cities in smaller towns. I would argue just the opposite."
The Rams lose eight seniors for next season's team that is staring at the chance to surpass rival Limon's state-record 50-game winning streak. However, the usual Christensen-led formula of great preparation, then taking it play by play, will squelch any thoughts of looking ahead.
"It'll be a challenge," he said.