This is the continuing story of my “Worst to First” youth football coaching experience in Reno, Nevada this year. I took an 8th grade team that had won about 6 games in the last 6 years to the Semi-Finals in the largest and most competitive league in the Reno/North Nevada area. This was filmed for an upcoming reality television show “Worst to First.”
Preparing for that oh so important game one with my struggling team would be a tough one. The league schedules came out today and we found out we play Carson City in game one. Unfortunately Carson City wasn’t in the SYFL Youth Football League the previous year and they were not one of the teams I looked at during the Scrimmage Game day for the league. I had only taken a very short peek at the 3 top teams in this 13 team age bracket. I was too worried about how we would play, than taking the time to scout other teams.
So what did we know about Carson City? Very little, they had joined this league in the off-season. They had played in Pop Warner the previous year and done well, but had moved into the unlimited weight SYFL at the urgings of the Carson City High School coach. Pop Warner does an excellent job with youth football in many areas of the country, I’m a fan of much of what they do. However their weight restrictions keep a lot of bigger kids from playing, the big kids those High School coaches need in their programs.
The good news was, Carson City knew nothing about our team either, so we were on equal footing. This was a good draw. What we didn’t want to do was play any of the league bullys in game 1 and get the kids confidence levels down. That would have been a youth football coaching nightmare for this fragile bunch.
On defense we would just have to prepare for a generic opponent. Offensively it was much easier, I’ve been coaching this offense for 18 seasons, over 180 games. I know where to look for my counts and keys. We would learn some of what we needed to know by watching them in pre-game, that is where I spend 65-70% of my time, watching the other team practice.
The net was the advantage should be with us. I know the system inside and out and know the approaches many teams take to stop the offense and attack the defense. All the if-thens are built into the system. Due to our practice methodology and pace we should be fine. Based on the research I’ve done on how most youth football teams practice- we would have done about 3,700 more quality team reps and about 7,000 more quality individual drill reps than the opponent. In game 1, we would need to be outclassed by quite a bit skill wise to take a loss.
With the low Pop Warner weights, Carson City would probably be a smaller team. If they added some bigger kids to the roster, they would probably be first year players. Athletically I didn’t know how we would match up, but my guess is we would have the size advantage. I decided to put a stake in the ground and NOT add in any additional football plays from my playbook
. We would go with the base 5 we had in Scrimmage Game 1, the off-tackle power, strong side sweep, weak side counter, middle wedge, sweep pass option, weak side play action power pass, inside wham style play, hard count, spinner series power strongside, spinner series middle wedge, spinner series weak side counter and spinner series run-pass option. We also had in 3-4 adjustments on the off-tackle play. I ditched the Counter play action pass for later as we were struggling to complete the 3 pass plays already in.
On defense, we planned to continue to practice our man alignments in about half of our defensive recognition time, but come game time we would align in zone. My base defense, but with the Monster call, which is basically an inverted Cover 2 with a middle Monster player who drops into the hole like Tampa 2 style coverage. Against most teams, Monster made the most sense. We weren’t a team that tackled well in space, Monster gave us another defender closer to the line of scrimmage and allowed everyones eyes to be on the ball.
More on closing out the fourth week of practice in the next post.