Friday, September 11, 2009

Polished offense: Explosive Eagles running single-wing to perfection

By Brian Eller

BERRYVILLE -- Ninety-one points. Through two games.

Clarke County's offense is firing on all cylinders so far this season, thanks in large part to the Eagles' recent devotion to the single-wing formation. It's a scheme rapidly gaining popularity with offenses around the country, and at Clarke County, it's being mastered by the quarterback/running back tandem of Zach and Sam Shiley.

"Our offense is really strong, and we've got a lot of big boys up front," quarterback Zach Shiley said. "If they can open up the holes it shouldn't matter what back gets the ball and we can get there quick enough and hopefully make a few guys miss and score a lot of points."

The idea of a single-wing formation has been around for several decades, originated by the legendary Glenn "Pop" Warner. It was a precursor to the modern "spread" offense used today, and gives the quarterback the option of either passing the ball, taking off on a run, or pitching it to the tailback.

For the Eagles, the idea developed last season. After Zach Shiley went down with a broken right fibula during the season, Sam Shiley, the team's starting running back, assumed the role of his brother. But there was reason for concern. Sam Shiley had never thrown a pass in a varsity game, and the nerves that come along with any high school quarterback were magnified for the first-time hurler.

"[I was nervous], definitely," Sam Shiley said. "I had never played quarterback before in my entire life, so to go in there and be thrown into a varsity game, I had never thrown a pass before, it was just awesome to get a win."

Despite the injury to Zach Shiley and the new role for his brother, the Eagles finished 2008 with a 9-3 record, falling to eventual state champion Gretna in the state playoffs. Sam Shiley finished with 1,259 yards on the ground, scoring 17 touchdowns and even leading the team with six interceptions.

This season, however, both Shileys are back at their natural positions, and the results have been nothing short of impressive through the first two games. For coach Chris Parker, he knows what advantages running the single-wing formation brings to the Shileys, but is quick to point out that they cannot do it alone.

"They're good athletes, and this type of offense is tailor-made for them," Parker said. "But to run it you need everybody on the offense clicking, and I think our guys have bought in to the scheme we're running. They had a big taste of it last year, but now this year with the package we have it's a little more cohesive, and guys sort of take to it."

Zach Shiley said despite his injury last year, he's not weary of reinjuring himself on the field during his senior campaign. After practice on Wednesday, Zach Shiley did admit he "tweaked" his right ankle during practice, but said the injury was not serious, and he plans to "go as hard as I can and not think about it."

Now that he's back to his normal position, Sam Shiley said looking back on his time at quarterback gave him the chance to improve his abilities as a tailback, whether running the ball or, at times, throwing.

"The quarterback vision definitely helps when you're running the ball," Sam Shiley said. "And in the single-wing the running back sometimes throws the ball, so definitely."

But while the Shiley brothers and the Clarke County offense has been lighting up the scoreboard this season, the Eagles' defense has been equally impressive, allowing just seven points all year. For Parker, it's that balance of a tough defense, combined with the explosiveness of his offense led by the Shileys, that gives him hope his team can go far this fall.

"Defense has done a heck of a job," Parker said. "I think they had 46 or so total yards of offense last game, so I'm pretty happy about that. ... We have a long way to go, but the guys have been very responsive to coaching, and have worked hard, not only now but in the offseason. Good things are happening."

The Northern Virginia Daily
152 N. Holliday St.
Strasburg, Va. 22657


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