Archive for Thursday, October 4, 2007

Turn back the clock

October 4, 2007

Baldwin High School's offense doesn't require a quarterback or wide receivers. Just four running backs are needed.

Welcome the single wing.

"It's been a fun offense," BHS coach Mike Berg said. "What I like about it is we are physical. You have to be physical to run it and that's what we have been working on this year. Even though the other team might know where the ball is going to go, we still run it there."

The offensive formation features four backs: wing back, blocking back, full back and tail back. Berg said the blocking back is sometimes referred to as the quarterback in the offense.

Despite not having a quarterback or receivers on the field at times, the Bulldogs are averaging seven yards per rushing attempt this fall.

"We've had some great running backs come through here, but none of them have averaged seven yards per carry," Berg said.

A change in offensive philosophy meant changes for many of the BHS players. Berg's son, senior Drew Berg, was projected to be the starting quarterback this fall after last season. Drew does act as the quarterback in their offense, but he has learned to embrace the Bulldogs' new look.

"When I first heard about it, I wondered how you can have an offense without a quarterback and how you pass out of it," Drew Berg said. "Now I really like it, because we always have a lead blocker and it uses a lot of misdirection."

Another drastic change has affected the running backs. They are now required to block during many offensive plays. Coach Berg has even made the backs practice with the linemen this fall.

"That was the thing we've had to do with our backs is teach them how to block," Coach Berg said. "If they are not carrying the ball, they have to be a blocker or carry out their fake. They have to know how to block."

Although blocking may be the biggest concern of the coaches, the players said timing has been their toughest challenge. The single wing uses lots of motion and misdirection, so timing of the fakes or handoffs is crucial to the offense's success.

"Timing has been the biggest challenge," Drew Berg said. "It's the most important and hardest thing to get used to. We are getting better at it every week."

BHS tailback Sam Beecher agreed with his teammate, but also said the timing is improving because of offensive consistency.

"It's been hard getting the timing of the fakes down," Beecher said. "During the last couple of games, we've had more people playing consistently at spots on the field. The more reps we get in, the better we will be."

The latest change to the BHS offense has been adding a passing attack to the single wing. The Bulldogs have thrown for more than 100 yards in two games this fall.

"The play-action pass has been good to us, too," coach Berg said. "If people are going to stack the box, you have to be able to throw it. I think our offensive linemen know that, but they still do a good job when there are nine or 10 people in the box."

Although the single wing might be new to Baldwin High, it's definitely not a new scheme in the football world. It's been around since the early to mid 1900s. Glenn "Pop" Warner is credited with creating the single wing offense.

The single wing all but disappeared for many years, until recently. Teams in the northern part of the country have begun using it again, and along with BHS, are helping to revive a vintage gridiron invention.

"It's from way back in the 1940s," coach Berg said. "It's old, but it's coming back, especially up north. I actually got some tape from high schools up there that run it."

When last year's season came to a disappointing end for the Bulldogs with their 4-5 record, coach Berg was already planning for the next fall.

"I always knew it was out there, but I seriously thought about it when the season was over a year ago," Berg said. "I was looking at game tapes and the personnel coming back. My nephew is using the same offense in Missouri and he told me how successful they were. I just did some research on it and fell in love with it because it fits our team and personnel perfectly."

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