Friday, October 31, 2008

Lions cap off perfect regular season

Lions cap off perfect regular season

CLEAR LAKE — Clear Lake left no doubt who the Class 3A, District 2 champion is in 2008.

No. 2 Clear Lake dominated Webster City 31-6 on a soggy Lions Field on Friday in the district title contest.

“It wasn’t our best game last week,” middle linebacker Ethan Tindall said of the Lions’ 32-16 win over Hampton-Dumont in Week Eight. “We wanted to come out (Friday) with the home game and the district championship on the line and show who was best.”

Clear Lake also completed the sixth perfect regular season in school history and host a substate game on Wednesday night.

Clear Lake held Webster City’s single-wing offense to 131 total yards.

The Lynx were averaging 370 yards of total offense through the first eight games.

“When we first watched it on tape, we were a little suprised,” Tindall said. “We’d never really seen it before.

“The more we watched the film the better we got at it. Coach (Curt) Charlson prepared us very well. He’s a very good defensive coach.”

Clear Lake, which led 3-0 after the first quarter, added three touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 24-0 lead at the half.

Senior halfback Lukas Matheson, who rushed for 135 yards, scored two touchdowns in the second quarter (38 and 34 yards).

“We got it together there,” said Clear Lake coach Fred Wieck, who has his team in the postseason for the 11th straight year. “Offfense, defense, the field goal, the extra points, the kickoff teams — it was all-around a good half of football.”

Clear Lake compiled 356 yards of total offense, including 298 rushing.

Matheson led the way with his 135 yards. Drew Dickson was next in line with 61 yards.

“I don’t defend us, but I think it’d be hard to defend us because we have so many weapons.

“(Jake) Plagge had some nice throws. (Jake) Kopriva had a completion. Lukas had some great runs, again. (Josh) Carlson runs harder than heck.”

Webster City, which will also host a substate game on Wednesday, scored on its first drive of the second half to trim the deficit to 24-6.

Clear Lake answered on its ensuing drive with a 5-yard touchdown run from Dickson, his second of the night, to push the lead to 25 points.

Neither team scored in the final 11:53 of the contest and the Lions remained one of a handful of undefeated teams in Class 3A.

“It’s all we can do in the regular season,” Wieck said. “We had a couple of games we’d like to play again, but 9-0 is all you can do.”

Now, Clear Lake gets to play a home game against another district’s No. 4 seed at Lions Field, where the Lions are 25-5 since the 2003 season.

“It’s awesome,” Tindall said. “We’ve played our best games this year at home.

“We get a No. 4 seed coming into our house so we’re pretty confident.”

clear lakE 31, WEBSTER CITY 6

Webster City 0 0 6 0 — 6

Clear Lake 3 21 0 7 — 31


CL — D.J. Wilhelm 32 field goal, 5:32.

CL — Lukas Matheson 38 run (Wilhelm kick), 11:31.

CL — Matheson 34 run (Wilhelm kick), 7:48.

CL — Drew Dickson 7 run (Wilhelm kick), 3:24.

WC — John HIll 2 run (kick failed), 4:27.

CL — Dickson 5 run (Wilhelm kick), 11:53.



First downs 10 18

Rushes-yards 38-91 44-298

Passing yards 40 58

Comp-att-int 4-6-0 5-5-0

Total yards 131 356

Punts-avg. 3-34.3 0-0

Penalties-yards 2-15 5-50

Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-0


Rushing — Webster City, Hill 21-54, Kevin Kannuan 7-39, Bret Hilpipre 1-6, Ross Haren 1-5. Clear Lake, Matheson 12-135, Dickson 10-61, Josh Carlson 6-29, Jake Plagge 2-20, Steve Scarrow 2-20, Grant Mickelson 4-19, Jake Kopriva 4-7, Tucker Weber 4-7.

Passing — Webster City, Brent Nelson 4-6-0 — 40. Clear Lake, Plagge 4-4-0 — 56; Kopriva 1-1-0 — 6.

Receiving — Webster City, Nate Treibel 2-24, Brandon Roberts 2-16. Clear Lake, Kevin Lu 2-38, Kopriva 1-8, Weber 1-6, Mickelson 1-6.

Ravens use defense, single-wing to top Raiders


Monday, October 27, 2008

(10-27) 00:49 PDT BALTIMORE, (AP) --

When he took over the Baltimore Ravens, rookie head coach John Harbaugh's first priority was to surround himself with experienced assistants.

Harbaugh has done a fine job of running the team, yet the wisdom of his staff has played a sizable role in helping turn around a club that stumbled to a 5-11 finish a year ago under Brian Billick.

Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and special teams coach Jerry Rosburg each had their units performing at peak efficiency Sunday in a 29-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders.

Ryan won a personal duel with twin brother Rob Ryan, the defensive coordinator of the Raiders, by overseeing a defense that limited Oakland to 35 yards in taking a 19-0 halftime lead. Baltimore finished with four sacks and limited the Raiders to 2-for-13 on third downs.

"Just another victory over my brother," Rex said. "I'll let him get on the plane, go home, and then I'll call him and rub it in a little bit."

Baltimore's special teams flourished too, led by backup punt returner Jim Leonhard, who returned four kicks for 63 yards — including a 46-yarder that set up a touchdown.

Cameron, meanwhile, has added a huge dose of creativity to an offense that has long been Baltimore's weakness. Against Oakland, the Ravens unveiled their version of the single wing, with backup quarterback Troy Smith taking snaps while starter Joe Flacco lined up as a wide receiver on the left side.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh called it the "Suggs Package," a joking reference to linebacker Terrell Suggs' assertion that Smith should be the starting quarterback.

Smith ran for 13 yards on three carries, including a pitch to Ray Rice that gained 19 more, before both quarterbacks showed their athleticism on a highlight-reel play in the third quarter. Smith heaved a sideline pass to Flacco, who made an excellent grab on the run after getting behind linebacker Ricky Brown.

"By the time I caught the ball, I was leaning over. I stumbled as long as I could," said Flacco, who was downed at the Oakland 6. "My feet were just getting drilled by the rest of my body. They were trying to keep up but they couldn't."

The play led to a field goal for a 22-3 lead, and the way the Baltimore defense was playing, that was more than enough.

Credit Cameron for making things interesting on a unit known for its conservative nature.

"We want to be real aggressive. We want to be very creative in what we're doing offensively," Harbaugh said.

The Raiders would love to do likewise, but quarterback JaMarcus Russell is still learning the game behind a young offensive line. Operating under duress for most of the afternoon, Russell went 15-for-33 for 228 yards and an interception.

"You have to grow up fast and I think, with certain situations, you become better," he said. "It's tough out there, man — I promise."

Flacco's reception aside, Rob Ryan's defense improved in the second half. But the Raiders, who were coming off an uplifting 13-10 overtime win over the New York Jets, couldn't come up with an appropriate encore.

"I feel like the defense didn't do their job in the first half," safety Gibril Wilson said. "The second half was a little better. But we have to be able to stop the run. We have to get off the field after third down. Those two things have been our Achilles Heel."

Baltimore ran for 192 yards and was an impressive 10-for-18 on third down. And Oakland had no answer for the Ravens' gadget plays.

"That's all new stuff, but you have to prepare for stuff on the run," Raiders cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "Cam Cameron, our hat goes off to him. They schemed us, and they executed. And Rex Ryan had that defense ready, and they out-executed us. They wanted it more."

Notes:@ Ravens special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo left with an ankle injury. ... Oakland has lost four of five and has yet to score more than 23 points in a game. ... It was the 100th win for the Ravens. Their first came against Oakland in 1996... Suggs recorded his 50th career sack.

Hearst Communications Inc.

Stars should shine for Apopka-East Ridge football matchup

October 29, 2008
A district title is at stake when Class 6A top-ranked Apopka (7-1, 3-0) goes to Clermont to take on East Ridge (7-1, 3-0) on Friday night.

And if that's not enough entertainment for $5 admission and $3 parking, fans also get to witness two guys in the running for the Florida Mr. Football player-of-the-year award.

Apopka's Jeremy Gallon was a preseason favorite for any honor available and hasn't disappointed. He does it all as a single-wing quarterback, but he is at his best when he takes a direct snap and scoots. Gallon has run for 1,417 yards this season and is closing in on 4,000 for his career.

On the flip side of a game that could turn into a highlight reel is East Ridge senior Jeremy Wright, the area rushing leader with 1,850 yards. All he did last time out is rack up the second-highest single-game total in state history with 492 in a 49-31 victory against Wekiva.

"Gallon makes more cuts and makes more people miss," Apopka Coach Rick Darlington said in comparing the two. "Jeremy Wright is going to find something, make one cut and go. He's so dadgum fast and smooth. You watch film, and no one ever gets a shot on him."

Apopka-East Ridge tops a big district destiny night that has 6A-1 leader Jacksonville Mandarin (6-2, 3-0) at DeLand (3-4, 2-1), Lake Brantley (5-2, 3-0) at Seminole (5-2, 2-0) for the 6A-2 lead, Freedom (5-3, 2-1) at Boone (7-0, 2-0) in 6A-5, and Daytona Beach Mainland (7-0, 2-0) at Hagerty (3-4, 2-0) for first place in 5A-4.

Orlando Sentinel

With the Single-Wing set, Baltimore gained 75 yards in four plays

Winning Edge

Teams suddenly have needed to get much more creative in order to try and stop Baltimore's offense. The Ravens insist intentional eye gouging is one unusual tactic an opponent has used.

With their offense heating up, the Ravens face the Cleveland Browns on Sunday in a rematch of a controversial contest from last month between the AFC North rivals.

Baltimore (4-3) has averaged 28.0 points en route to winning two straight, moving within one game of Pittsburgh for the division lead. The offensive outburst has helped the Ravens bounce back from a three-game losing streak, which began following a 28-10 victory over the Browns (3-4) on Sept. 21.

Controversy surrounding that matchup - Baltimore's highest-scoring game until beating Oakland 29-10 last Sunday - incited a review by the NFL.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh sent tapes to the league's office in New York asking for a review of two separate incidents in which he thought Browns players were intentionally gouging the eyes of Baltimore running back Willis McGahee, but the NFL found no evidence to support the accusation.

McGahee was cut on his right eyelid, poked in the left eye, and forced to leave the game twice.

Baltimore, which rotates three different running backs, rushed for 151 yards in that contest and is averaging 165.5 yards per game during its last two wins, including a 192-yard effort versus the Raiders sparked by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's innovative play calling.

Using two quarterbacks in a single-wing set, Baltimore gained 75 yards in four plays - including a 43-yard completion from backup quarterback Troy Smith to starter Joe Flacco.

~Click image to view video of single-wing play~

On the first two snaps Smith took, he ran between the tackles. The third time, he ran around end and pitched to Ray Rice for a 21-yard gain. Then came his pass to Flacco, who lined up as a wide receiver on the left side.

"There's a lot of other things we're practicing that we are going to show as time goes on," Harbaugh said. "We think we're creative. We think we have a chance to be an exciting offense; we think we've been that."

Rice, a rookie running back, enjoyed his most productive day in the NFL. The second-round draft pick out of Rutgers set a career high with 101 total yards, and accounted for five first downs in the second quarter alone. Rice's 15 receptions are second on the team behind Derrick Mason's 34.

Their contributions become even more vital with wide receiver Demetrius Williams sidelined for the rest of the season. Williams was placed on injured reserve Wednesday due to a bone spur around his left Achilles' tendon.

Although he caught a 70-yard touchdown pass against Oakland, the third-year wideout didn't practice last week and has long been operating at less than 100 percent. Williams played in all seven games this season and had 13 catches for 180 yards.

Losing a playmaker on offense isn't as tough when a team has a fearsome defense. The Ravens are tied with the Steelers for second in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing 15.7 points per game.

In last month's matchup with the Browns, Baltimore turned two of Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson's three interceptions into TDs during a 50-second span of the third quarter.

Anderson has played better in recent weeks, though, throwing for 830 yards and five TDs with one interception to help the Browns win three of their last four games after an 0-3 starts.

Even with Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow suspended, Anderson passed for 246 yards and a TD in a 23-17 victory over Jacksonville last Sunday.

Winslow's one-game suspension for criticizing the team's handling of his staph infection was rescinded, but he still didn't travel to Jacksonville. Winslow rejoined his teammates Monday after the Browns won for the second time this season without him.

"I'm ready to move on and just play football," said Winslow, who has 21 receptions for 187 yards and a score in the five games he has played.

With Winslow out last Sunday, backup tight end Steve Heiden led the Browns with 73 yards receiving - 51 of them coming on a fourth-and-1 catch to set up Cleveland's second touchdown.

Winslow recorded two catches and a season-low 14 yards versus the Ravens in September. He has not caught a touchdown pass in six career games against Baltimore.

The Browns have won their annual home game against Baltimore in three of the last four years.

STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Whose impact was greatest during the NFL's first half?

The NFL has reached the halfway point, and the picture doesn't look much like we thought it would. The Titans are unbeaten, the Chargers and Colts are far from it and Tom Brady didn't make it past Week 1. A look at five who have made a major impact:

ALL-PRO TEAM: The best performers of the first half
WEEK 9 PICKS: Our analysts' projections
EARLY SHOCKS: The surprises and disappointments

RONNIE BROWN, Dolphins running back

The next great thing was the first great thing.

When the Miami Dolphins' unveiled their Wildcat formation in the third week of the season, it brought back a taste of the single wing offense, including a direct snap to tailback Ronnie Brown.

The combination of the Wildcat and Brown's return from last season's knee injury helped put a little zip in a Miami offense that ranked 28th in the NFL during a misery-laden 1-15 season.

"Coming into the season I felt pretty good physically and each week I continue to feel better, like I've been saying over the past few weeks," says Brown, the Dolphins' No. 1 pick in 2005.

In the Wildcat, Brown is lined up about 7 yards behind center. Quarterback Chad Pennington takes a receiver spot. Tight end Anthony Fasano becomes the left tackle and left tackle Jake Long moves to the right side. Brown has run, handoff and pass options.

He scored three times on runs and threw a pass for a score when the Dolphins unveiled the Wildcat and upset the New England Patriots 38-13, ending their regular-season winning streak at 21. He has rushed for 406 yards and scored seven touchdowns.

"The awkward set brings about a different (defensive) front," Pennington says. "You see defensive players displaced. They're not in their normal position. They're maybe outside or over-shifted or whatever. Our guys have done an excellent job of communicating that and making adjustments on the run."

Other backs of major impact:

• Clinton Portis, Washington: Has seven TDs; NFL leader with 944 yards.

• Michael Turner, Atlanta: Ran for a club-record 220 yards in the opener.

• Chris Johnson, Tennessee: Has gained 626 yards to lead all rookies.

BRETT FAVRE, Jets quarterback

One bumpy ride.

That's the only way to describe Brett Favre's first season with the New York Jets.

Late-game heroics and breathtaking plays remain as much a part of Favre's arsenal as they were when he built his legend with the Green Bay Packers. But costly interceptions and uneven play have also been part of the act that Brett took to Broadway.

Although Favre, 39, has the 4-3 Jets in position to fight for at least a playoff berth as they chase the upstart Buffalo Bills and Tom Brady-less New England Patriots in the AFC East, his transition has been anything but smooth.

"Brett is still in a brand new system," says wide receiver Laveranues Coles. "We are still adding plays week in and week out, and he is still trying to get a grasp. We are trying to turn some of the terminology into some of the stuff he understands. Once he gets that, then it's cool."

New York's come-from-behind 28-24 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday said much about how uncool it has been at times. Jets fans booed Favre in the fourth quarter after the Chiefs picked him off three times.

Just as quickly, boos turned to cheers after he led a game-winning drive that culminated in a 15-yard scoring strike to Coles, his 15th scoring pass to go with 11 interceptions.

"We are trying to find a balance," Favre says. "We have capable guys, not only in the passing game but obviously in the running game. How we mix the two is a work in progress." —Tom Pedulla

Other quarterbacks making an impact:

• Kerry Collins, Tennessee: Keeping the Titans unbeaten and Vince Young on the bench.

• Jake Delhomme, Carolina: He missed last season, and the Panthers went 7-9. This year, they're 6-2. He's the difference.

• Trent Edwards, Buffalo: Great poise for a second-year player.

LARRY FITZGERALD, Cardinals receiver

A nice snapshot of Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald's season was developed this past weekend against the Carolina Panthers — albeit it a losing cause.

He didn't lead the team with catches. His seven receptions were two fewer than those of fellow wide-outs Steve Breaston and Anquan Boldin.

But he nonetheless was such a presence that afterward, the Panthers spoke about Fitzgerald with nothing but respect.

His 115 receiving yards led the team, as did his 16-yard per-catch average and his longest haul of 30 yards.

"You watch Larry Fitzgerald, he's really their go-to guy," Carolina linebacker Joe Beason said. "He's going to get his. We just have to contain him and make sure the other guys don't beat you."

Move over, Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. Step aside, Tony Romo and Terrell Owens.

We give you a rejuvenated Kurt Warner and the talented Fitzgerald, both of whom have helped fuel of on the NFL's more potent passing games thus far this season and are a primary reason the Cardinals lead the NFC West.

Boldin, for one, knows about what Beason says. His seven touchdown receptions are best in the league, and one reason is that Fitzgerald consumes so

Boldin, for one, knows about what Beason says. His seven touchdown receptions are best in the league, and one reason is that Fitzgerald consumes so much of the defense's attention. —Skip Wood

Other receivers of major impact:

• Eddie Royal, WR, Denver. The rookie has become one of the Broncos' most reliable receivers.

• Chris Cooley, TE, Washington. A big reason the Redskins are 6-2.

• Roddy White, WR, Atlanta. Has five TD catches for the Falcons.

ALBERT HAYNESWORTH, Titans defensive tackle

Tennessee has been the winningest team of the first half because of its defense. And while that unit has perhaps a half-dozen Pro Bowl candidates, its one lock for postseason honors is Albert Haynesworth.

"I don't know that there's anybody in the league playing better than he is right now," Colts coach Tony Dungy told the Indianapolis Star last week.

Haynesworth's dominance at defensive tackle continues a remarkable rise that began after his five-game suspension in 2006 for stomping an opponent's face. Last season he went to his first Pro Bowl after a six-sack campaign, and he already has matched that total this year while adding three other tackles for a loss.

The 6-2, 320-pound Haynesworth has literally vaulted over offensive linemen at times, but he had to perform without fellow Pro Bowler Kyle Vanden Bosch alongside him in Monday's win against the Colts.

He came up just short on two sacks, but took delight in rattling Peyton Manning with a pair of stops on fourth down.

Always a ready trash-talker, Haynesworth said, "You saw the classic Peyton with his 'Oh my God, I can't believe we missed that' (face). We want to frustrate him as much as possible and we love seeing that. That really took a little bit out of him." —Tom Weir

Other defenders of impact:

• John Abraham, Atlanta, DE: With seven sacks and two forced fumbles, helped restored faith in shaken team.

• Joey Porter, Miami, LB: Put reputation on the line, then backed it up: league-leading 10½ sacks, two forced fumbles.

• Charles Woodson, Green Bay, CB: Four interceptions, two returned for touchdowns, while playing on a broken toe.

MIKE SMITH, Falcons coach

In a loss to Tampa Bay in Week 2, Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith saw a sign that his team could surprise people.

Trailing by 14 points at halftime, Atlanta didn't quit, pulled within a touchdown and two-point conversion of tying before ultimately losing.

"We saw and felt, on the sideline, the energy there," Smith said. "Even though we did not win the football game, we knew we were going to be all right. … The thing that has helped us early in the process is that we've gotten confirmation that we're doing things right."

The Falcons are 4-3 and two games behind Carolina in the competitive NFC South.

Smith, Jacksonville's defensive coordinator from 2003-2007, walked into a tough situation. In aftermath of the Michael Vick's dogfighting debacle and after last year's coach, Bobby Petrino, walked out on the team with three games remaining, the Falcons finished 4-12 in 2007.

Smith wanted to change a culture of losing, which meant: work harder, no excuses, trust the coaching staff.

In turn, Smith put his trust in rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, the No. 3 overall pick, and developed a running game (No. 3 in the NFL) led by Michael Turner.

"We know we have to do things methodically to get there," Smith said. "We're still early in this process. Even though we're young, we have a solid group of older veterans who have been able to disseminate the message. That has accelerated the process." —Jeff Zillgitt

Other coaches of major impact:

• Jim Zorn, Washington Redskins: Rookie surprising at 6-2.

• Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals: 4-3 and fifth in offense, second in passing and fourth in scoring.

• Jeff Fisher, Tennessee Titans: Is off to his best start at 7-0.

Dolphins' wildcat look a scheme come true

Miami's unconventional approach creating nightmare for opponents
By Lynn DeBruin, Rocky Mountain News
Published October 30, 2008 at 9:54 p.m.

Michael Pittman heard the term and immediately knew where this was going.

"Hey, I got an arm on me. I used to quarterback in high school," the Broncos running back said with a smile.

Andre Hall was equally giddy.

"I could do that," he said. "In high school, we had hundreds of big plays off of it."

What the Broncos running backs were talking about was the wild-and-crazy Wildcat formation that ignited an anemic Miami Dolphins offense six weeks ago.

It left Bill Belichick's Patriots defense dumbfounded and had the Chargers scratching their heads all the way back to San Diego.

With the Dolphins coming to Invesco Field at Mile High on Sunday (2:05 p.m., CBS 4), the question is whether this modified version of the single wing already has become more fad than fantastic.

Will it go the way of the barefooted kicker of the 1980s or continue to grow and prosper like variations of the West Coast offense?

"I think defenses will eventually catch up to it," said's Gary Horton, who watched Baltimore's defense stuff it with blitzes in the Ravens' 27-13 win Oct. 19. "But I don't think it's as much a fad as you think. You may not be able to use it like Miami has, but you can pull it out once or twice in game situations.

"That's the beauty of it. You can catch teams totally off-guard because there's no substitutions and the reads are exactly the same."

Little Pop

The Wildcat dates from Pop Warner's single wing in which the tailback - in Miami's case, Ronnie Brown - does it all.

He takes the direct snap behind an unbalanced line and can fake a handoff and run it between the tackles.

Or he can hand off to the other back already in motion, in Miami's case, Ricky Williams.

Or he can roll to his left and take advantage of the misdirection and throw to the tight end.

As the Dolphins have showed, the trickery doesn't stop there.

"The reason I like it is you can keep adding nuances," Horton said.

The third week the Dolphins used it, they had Brown hand off to Williams, who handed back the other way to quarterback Chad Pennington, who passed 53 yards for a touchdown to a third running back, Patrick Cobbs, who slipped 20 yards behind defenders.

Other variations might have Pennington as a receiver or getting Williams more involved.

To this point, it mostly has been The Ronnie Brown Show - and he has shown why he was the No. 2 overall pick in 2005.

Against the Patriots on Sept. 21, the Dolphins used the Wildcat six times and scored four touchdowns - on runs of 2, 5 and 62 yards by Brown and a 19-yard pass from Brown to tight end Anthony Fasano.

Against the Chargers two weeks later, Brown took the direct snap 11 times and rushed for 49 of his 125 yards, including the winning touchdown.

In a 29-28 loss at Houston on Oct. 12, the Dolphins used the attack eight times, with great success, as Brown averaged 8.9 yards a carry going into the Ravens game.

But Baltimore's blitzing defense finally had an answer; the Wildcat formation netted the Dolphins only 4 yards on five plays.

The Dolphins ran six plays from the Wildcat for 35 yards Sunday in a 25-16 win against the Buffalo Bills but gave opponents more to think about with something new, a direct snap to Williams.

"It's hard (to defend)," Bills coach Dick Jauron told the Palm Beach Post. "They added some wrinkles, which they do every week. They do a really good job with it."

Blitz is best defense

Horton said many coaches think the best defense is to audible to a blitz as soon as they recognize the formation. And the more film opponents see, the easier it will be to recognize.

But Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said it was pretty wild seeing what the Dolphins came up with seemingly out of the blue, even though the formation still is used by some high school programs, in college. It was used in the pro game until the 1950s.

"Who's got who?" Bailey said was his initial reaction. "You don't see it in this league, and when teams are not ready for it, it's tough to stop."

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan insists he has been ready for it since the opener, when Denver played Oakland. Raiders rookie running back Darren McFadden ran it to perfection at Arkansas.

"It didn't surprise me that somebody else used it," Shanahan said of the Dolphins. "Colleges have taken it to a new level, trying to get the ball in the hands of the best athletes. It probably will grow in the NFL as well until somebody stops it."

The key is having a back who can throw, Shanahan said.

"Then the sky's the limit," he said. "But if the guy's just one-dimensional, I don't think it will last very long."

Fun factor

For Miami, the Wildcat formation was born out of desperation at 32,000 feet. After a humiliating 31-10 loss at Arizona in Week 2, coach Tony Sparano huddled with quarterbacks coach David Lee, who was familiar with the "Wild Hog" offense while working under Houston Nutt at Arkansas.

The Razorbacks had installed the package in 2006 to get the best three players - McFadden, Felix Jones and current Broncos fullback Peyton Hillis - on the field at the same time.

"I just felt like on the way back from Arizona that we needed to create space and create a little bit of enthusiasm within practice," Sparano said.

Pittman can imagine.

"It just brings you back to the old-school days. It adds fun to the game," said Pittman, who said he'd be the first one to sign up for a role in it - even at age 33. "I keep telling them to put the halfback pass in (here) but haven't sold them on it yet."

Sparano admits teams are finding more ways to attack the Wildcat but said his book of possibilities is pretty thick.

"We've just scratched the surface of really what we were trying to do," he said after the Houston game.

Despite the NFL being a copycat league, former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson doesn't believe all teams could go to a Wildcat formation.

"Most teams have a diva quarterback or a diva wide receiver or both," Johnson wrote in his column for "Now, can you see a diva quarterback being a decoy? And a diva wide receiver? The Dolphins can get away using the Wildcat formation because they are not trying to appease Pennington and a wide receiver."

Johnson said there is no way Dallas would run the Wildcat.

"Tony Romo wouldn't like it, and we all know Terrell Owens would hate it," he wrote.

Broncos defensive end Tim Crowder believes the Broncos could pull it off, especially with two healthy rookies in the lineup in Ryan Torain and Eddie Royal.

"I've seen (Royal) throw the ball 60 yards just goofing off," Crowder said of the versatile receiver. "So you never know."

Beavers, Mavs familiar foes

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — The last time Bluefield and James Monroe faced off, it was for the Class AA state championship.

Bluefield won that one. Still, the Mavericks have earned the Beavers’ respect.

“I’m happy that we won, but if we couldn’t have won, they would have been fine as far as someone representing our state as far as state champions,” said Bluefield head coach Fred Simon, whose Beavers are 6-3 against the Mavs since 2002. “They always play hard, they’re well-coached and they’re a first class operation.”

Those clubs meet tonight in Lindside. No. 10 Bluefield (5-3) has won five straight since an 0-3 start, while eighth-ranked James Monroe (6-2) has claimed three wins in a row.

“I think they’re well-coached, they’re very opportunistic, and they take advantage of what people give them,” Simon said. “They block punts, they pick off passes, they execute their offense so they are definitely a team that has a lot of pride and just finds a way to win. They have a lot of tradition down there.”

So does Bluefield. Winners of nine state titles, the Beavers opened the season with three straight losses, but are now back in the playoff picture. Simon figures his team needs one more win to feel secure, either tonight or next Friday against South Charleston, the top-ranked Class AAA team in the state.

“We’ve got to take them one a time, we definitely know we probably need one of the two to get in,” Simon said. “Everybody knows that, but we still want to play our best and not be too focused that we have to have this. What we have to have is just good effort.”

While James Monroe is coming off a 29-0 win over Mount View, a team Bluefield beat the previous week 47-8, the Beavers defeated Scott 41-0, taking advantage of 10 turnovers by the Skyhawks. The Mavs also beat Scott 19-7, when the ‘Hawks turned it over 11 times.

Despite the 41-0 score over what was then the sixth ranked Class AA team, Simon said it wasn’t as routine as it may have appeared.

“It wasn’t easy, those guys were big and strong,” Simon said. “Fortunately we had some turnovers that helped us a lot, but I thought we beat a really good football team.

“That score is a little deceiving because of the turnovers that we got, but they are definitely a playoff-caliber team and I’m sure they’re going to do well in the playoffs.”

Bluefield will be led by Kennedy Award candidate Will Cole, who has thrown for 1,783 yards and 20 touchdowns, including last week’s 380 yards and three scores against Scott. Cole did all that while playing with an ankle sprain suffered early in that game. He didn’t play his normal safety spot for much of that contest, and won’t play defense again tonight.

“Will is a competitor, just having him out there will help us,” Simon said. “He’s going to be able to run adequately and throw well and that’s all we can ask and that’s all we want from him.”

With Cole out on defense, Damien Price will play cornerback and Marcus Patterson will take Cole’s slot as the last line of defense. That wasn’t a problem last week for the Beavers.

“We had (Patterson) in there in a different position,” Simon said, “but Marcus came up two interceptions and a fumble recovery by playing where we had him so the switch didn’t hurt us.”

Patterson has been Cole’s favorite receiver this year, pulling in 48 passes for 754 yards and eight touchdowns. Other targets include Cody Wassum (29-402, 6 td), Levi Beckett (22-264, 3 td) and Isaiah Manns (14-264. 3 td), a quartet that gave a glimpse of their potential during a 7-on-7 camp last summer at Wake Forest.

“I figured that the guys had good hands, they ran good patterns and we competed good very well down there,” Simon said. “We felt like we could definitely do it, but we didn’t throw it enough in the first couple of games. We have definitely thrown it more and it has helped our running game.”

Especially Jake Lilly. Not only is Lilly the Beavers’ leading tackler for a second straight season, but he’s run for 535 yards and eight touchdowns behind a young, but improving offensive line.

“Our offensive line has really gotten better as far as giving them time,” Simon said. “The offensive line knows they have to block, Will knows he has to get the ball to them and the receivers know they have to catch it.

“As long as everybody is working together to get that done then we have a chance of winning.”

Bluefield will have to win without Manns, who has a shoulder injury and could be out until the playoffs.

“He’s got good hands, a good blocker, and a good leader,” Simon said. “You hate to see it, but it’s an opportunity for somebody to step in and hopefully Byron Steptoe will do a good job of stepping in for him and probably Donte’ Baker on defense.”

Much has changed at James Monroe this season. Don Jackson returned to the Mavs’ sidelines, and discarded the single wing that had proven so effective under the tutelage of David Witt. Much like the Beavers, they’ve also had to replace their entire offensive and defensive line from last year’s team.

“It’s a new offense so it’s going to take them a little time to get the new offense, but they’ve done a good job,” Simon said. “I have just noticed that they keep getting better and better, they’ve gotten better every game.”

While the point production is down in Lindside, Taylor Robertson and Nick Kisiel are talented backs, having combined for more than 1,000 yards on the ground.

“They’ve started there for two and three years and they run hard and they play hard,” Simon said. “James Monroe is definitely another team that is going to be in the playoffs again and they just find a way to win and get in the playoffs every year.”

James Monroe has been stingy on defense, allowing just 49 points over the last five games, and only once has a team reached double figures during that span. Of course, Bluefield offers the type of passing game that few high school teams have to defend.

“I don’t think a lot of teams have (seen it), and that’s the advantage we have on certain teams right now because we do throw quite a bit,” said Simon, who likes what he sees from the Mavs’ defense. “They all just play together, they’re sound fundamentally, and they’re smart.

“They know how to play defense, they’ve been a good defensive team every year that we have ever played them.”

Simon expects this game to be much like the last five against the Mavericks, in which the average margin of victory has been eight points.

“We know we’ll get their best and that’s what we have to be ready for,” Simon said. “I wouldn’t expect anything less than that from them.”

—Contact Brian Woodson


James Monroe prepared for Bluefield’s high-powered attack


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Some things change, and some things stay the same.

Last year, the Bluefield Beavers football team beat James Monroe twice by a touchdown, the latter meeting coming in the Class AA state championship. Those were the Mavericks’ only two losses of the season.

“Last year was last year and this year is this year,” James Monroe coach Don Jackson said Thursday afternoon.

The two schools play again tonight in Lindside, but the Mavericks differ from last year’s team in several respects.

Jackson returned as the coach over the off-season. The single-wing offense has been replaced by a pro look with occasional options out of the West Virginia Mountaineers’ playbook. And more than a dozen of last year’s seniors have moved on.

Still, this season’s Mavericks (6-2) are ranked eighth in the Class AA computer rankings and the Beavers (5-3) are 10th. The top eight teams in each class at the end of the season get to host a first-round playoff game.

This evening’s result will have a bearing on those brackets, but Jackson is not about to look past the game at hand.

He said, “That last rating is the one that’s important. We’ve taken that approach all year long. This is a big game. The next one (closing out the regular season at Summers County) will be a big game, too.”

The current James Monroe players have grown up observing, if not playing in, close contests with Bluefield. “They’re excited about the game,” Jackson said.

As far as the 2007 results are concerned, Jackson downplayed the past. He said that as the coaches have talked with the team this week, “We haven’t played on that, hardly at all.”

The coaching staff has done its homework, however. “We’ve traded films, and we’ve scouted ’em a couple of times,” Jackson said. “They’ve got athletes everywhere. It really makes it tough to defend.”

Defense has been the keystone of the Mavericks’ success lately. In the last three weeks, the Monroe countians have won by scores of 29-0 (Mount View), 21-14 (Greenbrier East) and 10-6 (Narrows). The Mavs are giving up an average of 12.75 points per game.

The defense has made 14 interceptions and returned them for 274 combined yards.

Against Bluefield, Jackson said, “Our defense is going to have to play well. (Bluefield) has such a high-powered offense. We hope we can slow them down just a little bit.”

The offense has climbed a steep learning curve after spending the last seven years in the single wing, and that learning has continued since August.

“We’re more diverse than we were at the beginning of the season,” Jackson said. “We had people ganging up on that unbalanced line. We’ve done some things that make the defenses spread out some.”

Though there are reportedly some unused formations still in the wings, Jackson said the team is “pretty much locked in to what we’re doing on offense. We’re not going to change it that much.”

James Monroe has averaged 18.25 points per game, generating 1,150 rushing yards and 454 more passing.

Once again, the leading rusher for James Monroe is Taylor Robertson, with 571 yards on 128 attempts. Nick Kisiel follows with 451 yards on 120 tries, and leads the team in scoring with 46 points.

John Ballengee, a junior, has completed 47 percent of his passes (26-for-55) for 295 yards and four touchdowns. Kisiel has caught 13 balls for 107 yards, an 8.2-yard average per catch. Senior Jacob Williams averages 21.6 yards per catch and has scored three touchdowns via the air route.

Robertson, who ran for 964 yards in his sophomore year and for 1,871 last year, has been bothered by a bad ankle throughout this campaign. “He’s been getting better in every game,” Jackson said. “He’s been hurting in every game.”

Senior Lee Triplett, who leads the team in tackles with 119, returned for the Mount View game last week, making 13 tackles and breaking up a pass after being out with his own bad ankle.

Jackson said that Triplett “practiced well this week. He’s back to being nearly 100 percent.”

The coach noted that in a mid-September game with PikeView, he lost his starting center, quarterback and tailback. Coming up with wins despite occasional injuries has had a positive effect on the whole team’s morale, he said.

“We felt, that’s a big plus,” he said. “We’ve gotten more confident each week.”

The offensive line has not been immune to injury problems, but that seems to have straightened out, Jackson said.

“Probably the last two weeks (were) the first time we had all the starters in there together. Most of the year, we’ve had to switch people around,” he said.

Game time is 7:30 p.m. at H.E. Comer Jr. Sports Complex.

The single-wing formation

By Roy Waters The News Herald
Published: October 28, 2008
Updated: 10/28/2008 08:04 pm

Football has come full circle.
Several National Football League teams have experimented with the old single-wing formation recently, with the Miami Dolphins leading the way.

The offense was developed a century ago by Coach Pop Warner and was still prevalent in the early 1960s.

The formation had two backs several yards behind the center, one back just slightly behind the center about a yard to the side and one back split out past one of the ends.

There was no quarterback in this formation as the T-formation didn't come along until the 1940s and it was the 50s before it began to take over. In the "T" the quarterback took the ball directly behind the center and the other three backs were behind him several yards standing side-by-side parallel to the offensive line.

The center, quarterback and these three backs formed a "T." Over the years, the three backs have been moved around to many different spots on the field. The T-formation was quick hitting, while the single wing took longer to develop a play.

The new single-wing formation will produce yardage until defenses can catch up. The Dolphins scored five touch-downs in their first 17 plays from the single-wing formation recently.
Colleges are also using a version of it. Wake Forest won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 2006 with the formation and Appalachian State has won three national championships in a row with their own slant of the single wing.

Most of the college teams split their linemen farther apart and try to create a 3-on-2, 4-on-3 or any other scenario that will create an advantage.

This is the same strategy a coach will apply to his zone offense in basketball and it takes only several seconds for this mismatch to do damage.

Look for this more and more. A 100-year-old offense is new again, full circle.
That term is fresh on my mind as the author of a new book I just finished said her dad used it to describe how things come back into your life a second time.

Robin Evans wrote "A Bountiful Heart" about the life of her father, restaurant legend Bob Evans. The book also refers to her mother's days in Morganton when she lived on Tate Street before her dad moved to Ohio in the 1930s. I highly recommend the book.

No more prevent
I don't like to criticize coaches but with all the good Butch Davis has brought to UNC's football program, he gave away one game and almost two others using the prevent defense in the last two minutes.

I understand the use of it in the final 30 to 40 seconds of a game but with nearly two minutes left you play into the hands of a good quarterback when you rush only three men. It was the only way Virginia could have won the game.

Collins doing well
You may not be aware of the fine work former Carolina Panthers' quarterback Kerry Collins is doing for the unde-feated Tennessee Titans.
He replaced the troubled and young Vince Young early in the season and his team is among the NFL's elite.
Collins never got it going when he was a Panther.

More on injuries
An addendum to my column from last week on sports injuries.
One of the saddest stories I've ever heard on this subject took place last week in Asheville.
UNC-Asheville basketball player Kenny George had a third of his foot amputated and I'd think he was done with the sport. It's almost impossible to play sports with out a big toe.
He had developed an infection in the foot and was slowed down for a couple of years.
I went to Asheville to see him play last season and I thought I was prepared for the first look at the gentle giant, but nothing will prepare you for a 7-feet, 7-inch, 365-pound young man with shoulders as wide as two normal men. It was a moving experience. I couldn't take my eyes off of him.

He played basketball with a slow, elegant style and I've never seen anyone play with the positive interaction he had with his teammates, opponents and the fans.

It was a joy to watch him and an even greater tragedy to know that none of us will get to see him in that setting again.

Roy Waters is a sports columnist for The News Herald. Waters was baseball and basketball coach at Salem High School from 1955-1966, where his teams won 18 championships. In 2007, he was inducted into the Burke County Sports Hall of Fame.