New Ford II football coach turns back the clock
By Brad D. Bates
C & G Sports Writer
New Utica Ford II football coach Todd Winters is looking to take the Falcons back to football’s roots.
Winters is instilling a single-wing offense and hopes to refocus and renew the Falcons’ program with hard-nosed football.
“It’s old-school football,” Winters said. “It’s single-wing football — the beginning of football — stuff they ran on the 1934 Michigan team with Yale formations.”
The single-wing that Winters employs is a far cry from the modern spread offenses used by most of the teams in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division.
“We’re going to be the novelty,” Winters said of bringing his offense to the Red.
“They’re going to have one week to prepare for us, and we’re going to be the only one in the league doing it.”
The single-wing is primarily a run offense used most recently to perfection by Menominee High en route to back-to-back Division 5 state titles in 2006 and 2007.
The formation has multiple running backs and a quarterback who serves almost exclusively as another ball carrier.
“It’s a philosophy that allows substitutions, so we’re going to use a lot of different players,” Winters said. “(Junior) Aaron Cox will be one of the main backs. He’s the ‘quarterback,’ but there really aren’t too many pass plays.”
Terry Gissendanner, the smaller but faster senior, will join the 6-foot-3-inch, 240-pound Cox in the backfield.
The group that will see the most change is the Falcons’ offensive line.
Luckily for Winters, it’s a veteran group, with four returning seniors in right tackle Zach Orris, center Jon Balentino, left guard Kyle Unruh and left tackle Daryon DeVoogd.
“The last three years, coach (Jay) Anthes had them in a two-point stance,” Winters said of the offensive linemen under their former coach.
“This year, we’ll be in the three-point stance and in attack mode. There are fewer rules they need to follow. They just need to focus on the attack.”
There will also be a new defense for the Falcons, as they switch to a 3-3 stack where they’ll employ three defensive linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs.
“The new defense is going to have press coverage and be a little more aggressive than a zone,” Winters said. “We’re going to change up our fronts, too.”
With so many changes, Winters admits his players were tentative early, but when they saw the opportunities the new schemes allowed, they were excited.
“When they heard about the offense, they were hesitant and wondered if it could work,” Winters said. “Once we got that mentality out of there, it didn’t take too long for them to warm up.”
While the Falcons adjust to new systems, they’ll have to replace a large senior class from the 2008 squad and make up for a reduced roster size in 2009.
“Our goal this year is to field 40 on varsity and 35 on JV,” Winters said. “Everything we do, you have to rely on your teammates.
“We won’t do a lot of one-on-one blocking, and we’re going to change the mentality and make it more aggressive.”
Winters, who has taught at Ford II for 14 years and coached football for 17, got used to doing more with less at his last head-coaching job a year ago at New Haven High.
“At New Haven, it was a good day when we had 22 kids, but we were always competitive,” Winters said of the Rockets, who were 3-6 overall and 2-3 in the MAC Bronze last year.
As Winters combines his know-how with Ford II’s resources, he hopes it will make for a successful equation.
“Now we’re on a level playing field, and hopefully, we’ll be able to compete.”
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