Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Akron's old-school approach wins football titles

The "Single-Wing Sentinel" is an online pat-on-the-back website for coaches and teams who constantly run through opponents using the offense. On, there is already a congratulatory hug for Akron, listed among several teams around the nation that have beaten opponents senseless with the single wing.

The kudos comes with good reason.

Akron (12-0) goes into Saturday's Class 1A state title game against Wray having won back-to-back state titles and is on a 38-game winning streak. The Rams are poster children to all those who swear nothing but the single wing will do.

Akron's coach is Brian Christensen. As a prep, he ran the offense under then-coach

Carl Rice. Rice is now the school's principal and an assistant on Christensen's staff. Christensen has not changed a decades-old tradition of Akron single-wing teams, and is softspoken about why the offense has been so successful.
"You look at college and high school levels, and everyone is running some form of something," Christensen said. "I think it really comes down to the kids executing well and being disciplined and those kinds of things."

At its base, the single wing, designed by Glenn "Pop" Warner, features four backs — one of those a "wingback" — in various locations behind the center. The quarterback is asked to block, and in fact is called a "blocking back" in many cases. The ball is shotgun-snapped into the backfield and the mayhem begins.

"One coach said it looked like a rugby formation, people going here, going there," Rice said. "But specifically as I have learned it, it's a bunch formation and it actually makes you defend the whole field in one way or another."

No matter how it's viewed, there is no doubt it has been the catalyst for some big offensive numbers.

Akron has churned out nearly 3,800 yards of offense this season and has averaged 39 points per game. Of that total, 3,040 yards and 45 touchdowns have come on the ground. Dalton Jefferson (1,263 yards, 15 touchdowns) and Logan Davisson (875 yards, eight touchdowns) are the biggest beneficiaries.
"It spreads you horizontally," Rice said. "And if it does that, there's going to be a crack somewhere. It does allow you to put a lot of people at the point of attack. It is, I think, hard to follow the ball. It gives you a lot of opportunity to attack instead of being attacked."

And, adds Yuma coach Keith Gille: "Where Akron takes it to the next level is, they stay extremely low and are extremely dedicated and disciplined when running it."

The flip side to Akron's offensive success has been the dominance of its defense, and dominance might be an understatement. The Rams shut out seven teams this season and have yet to be scored on through three rounds of the playoffs. The last time a team scored on Akron was Yuma on Oct. 17. Akron has intercepted 23 passes and recovered 13 fumbles.

Gille, a Pomona graduate who coached at Pomona and Chatfield before taking the head coaching job at Yuma, called Akron "probably the best defense I've ever seen in high school football."

It's coordinated by Rice.

"He does amazing things with that defense," Gille said. "We led the state in offense with 400 yards per game, and we ran the ball for 100 yards and threw for 60. But we were 2-for-16 passing with three interceptions, and one of those completions was on a fake punt. And watching film, they had everybody covered up. So it's not also that they swarm real well to the ball and they tackle real well, but they cover real well and they have great defensive backfield speed. Those same kids play on offense. They are an amazing, amazing unit."

Gille has ties to the game left and right. His team played both finalists in the regular season as a member of the North Central Conference, beating Wray 13-12 and losing to Akron 40-8.

In Akron's three-year, 38-game winning streak, Gille's team also has the distinction of being Akron's first opponent in the run, and to this point, its last win as well.

"They are both terrific teams with great coaching staffs with very talented players," Gille said. "I hope it's a good game."

Chris Dempsey: 303-954-1279 or

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