While much of the football you watch on TV on Saturdays and Sundays don’t apply to the youth game, some strategy approaches may. I watched a real ugly game last season where the main feature of the game were the 35 mph winds. These winds were very consistent and heavily influenced the play mix of both teams. One team’s opening drive into the wind consisted of 16 straight running plays. Neither team ended up with over 100 passing yards, combined they threw just 38 passes and 2 of those were intercepted. In the first quarter there were just 3 possessions as both teams stayed on the ground and ate the clock. The first quarter was over in about 25 minutes, amazing for a televised game.
The kickoff choice strategy for the second half was very interesting. Trailing 7-3, the losing team which was also the visiting team had to kickoff in the third quarter. The common approach is to make sure you have the wind in the fourth quarter. However this coach chose to kick with the wind and give his opponent the wind advantage in the fourth quarter. His thought process was that with so few possessions, he wanted to limit the possessions the other team had with the wind. If you kick off to the other team and they have the wind, they are guaranteed to have a full possession with the wind to start the second half. Since this was also an away game, giving up another score and getting behind by 11 points would have made the crowd an even greater factor. He wanted to grab the momentum of the game in the third quarter in the hostile environment. In the end, the decision worked out. The defense held, the punt into the wind gave the team that kicked off great field position and they scored 2 times with the wind in the third quarter to win the game.
This game reminded me of a 7-8th grade game I coached back in 2009. With 50 mph winds and a slim lead in the 3rd quarter, we were going into the wind. The opposing team had a very good Quarterback and a HUGE Receiver that we didn’t match up well with. We wanted to make sure they didn’t have a chance to make a big play with that pair, so we went maximum slowdown that quarter. I called the plays in at the line of scrimmage with just 5 seconds left on the 25 second clock. While we only ground out 3-4 first downs, we did it with 3-4 downs ever time. You could see the fight drain out of that team as we drained the clock down to nothing, as our quarters are just 10 minutes long.
In these type of games you need to limit the possessions the other team has with the wind and increase the number of possessions you have with the wind. If you are a no-huddle team like us, that means going rapid pace with the wind and max slowdown against the wind. The end result was this approach not only frustrated the opposition, it helped us pull out a win against a very good opponent.
Think your kick decisions through during pre-game. Sometimes the “conventional” approach will not make sense for your equation. Never overestimate the effective use of clock management in tight, ugly games like these.
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