Archive for Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Turn back the clock

Bulldogs gain ground with single wing

October 3, 2007

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The Baldwin High football team lines up in the single wing offensive formation during a recent game. Zach Dur (7) is the wing back, Drew Berg, center, is the blocking back and Sam Beecher and Jared Hall are the tailback and fullback. Baldwin is averaging seven yards per carry this fall.

The Baldwin High football team lines up in the single wing offensive formation during a recent game. Zach Dur (7) is the wing back, Drew Berg, center, is the blocking back and Sam Beecher and Jared Hall are the tailback and fullback. Baldwin is averaging seven yards per carry this fall.

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

Welcome to 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, fullback and tailback. Berg said the blocking back sometimes is referred to as the quarterback in the offense.

Despite not having a true quarterback or any wide 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 after last season. Drew still acts as the quarterback but 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, who now are required to block. Mike Berg even made the backs practice with the linemen.

"That was the thing we've had to do with our backs is teach them how to block," Mike 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 big concern for the coaches, the players said perfecting the single wing's motion and misdirection has been the most difficult part.

"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.

"During the last couple of games, we've had more people playing consistently at spots on the field," Beecher said. "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," Mike 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 began using it again recently, and schools like BHS are helping to revive a vintage gridiron invention.

"It's from way back in the 1940s," Mike 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 4-5 season came to a disappointing end, Mike Berg already was planning for this fall.

"I always knew it was out there, but I seriously thought about it when the season was over a year ago," Mike 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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