For those of you following our “Worst to First” Youth Football Coaching reality television show season, this weeks game is against the number one seed in the league. Reed- look here for a write up on how stacked this team is: //www.winningyouthfootball.com/wp-blog/?p=4315
After watching their game films my goal was to slow the game down, take as much time off the clock as possible, win the turnover battle and hold on for dear life on defense. We simply didn’t have the horses to defend all their quality weapons in space with kids who had won just six games in the previous six years. Hopefully we could get an early lead and maybe Reed would panic.
Our week of practice had gone fairly well. We were still struggling to tackle in space and due to our lack of athletic numbers, we had to limit our contact. With one of our starting Corners out for the week, we were at a disadvantage in repping Reed’s pattern concepts. The only reps our guy was going to see was in pre-game.
I didn’t want to show our kids film of our opponent beating teams by 50-60 points every week. Our kids knew this team was good, but I didn’t want to blow their minds. To give you an idea how athletic this team is, our kids had played these guys as sixth graders. The Reed Quarterback threw an interception, he didn’t like that. So the Quarterback made the tackle AND stripped the ball and then went 50 yards for a touchdown with the stripped ball. In that same game the Quarterback had put out for the entire game our best two Running Backs in the FIRST QUARTER. The Reed team was legendary in this league for athleticism. size and physicality. With Reed combining with the third place team for this season, they were the “Super” team on steroids.
Our kids weren’t outwardly nervous going into the game, but they were anxious to see if the “new” Sparks team could hang with the Monster. I was very lighthearted and all smiles prior to the game, to keep the kids loose. There were a lot of people at the game seeing if this 4-1 Sparks team could really play with big bad Reed. Reed had it’s 25 cheerleaders and big crowd. We of course had our zero cheerleaders and faithful parents and relatives.
As I had hoped we received the opening kickoff. On our first three plays we probed the middle, on a fourth and two we jumped our own hard count, something I haven’t had a team do in five or six years. Facing fourth and seven from our own 45, I faked the punt and we barely made the first down. Disaster averted, we had to get some confidence and momentum to stay in the game. We then drove the ball for a touchdown with a 15 play drive using a combination of Powers, Sweeps, Counters, Wedges and Wham plays. It’s 7-0.
We onside kick and make the recovery. If you are coaching youth football and not perfecting the onside kick, you just aren’t trying very hard. On the first two snaps we get 10 yards apiece on spinner wham plays. On the third snap we catch the beast QB in an A gap blitz and torch them for a touchdown on a spinner wedge as their Defensive Tackles were tired of being trapped on the whams and weren’t penetrating hard. Had the QB stayed in place at Safety, there is no way we score on that play. Reed hadn’t expected us to move the ball, let alone score, so they were willing to take some chances against a team they had mercy ruled in every game they had played in years past. It’s 13-0.
We onside kick again and they recover at their own 40. Out of the double slot pistol, they score in three plays on a simple toss sweep after just missing on a 40 yard four verticals concept . We are in position to make the tackle on the sweep but several players whiff. It’s 13-6.
We get the ball back and like clockwork move the ball downfield and score in eight plays. We have yet to attempt a pass. It’s 20-7.
We BARELY miss getting another onside kick back, it looked like we had it, but their kid fought it out of our kids hands at the last possible moment and they retain possession. They score in one play from sixty yards out to make it 20-12.
We recover their onside attempt and drive it for two first downs before coming up short on downs, thanks partly to another off-sides penalty on us. We were able to milk another four minutes off the clock though. Reed scores in five plays when we adjust by alignment and stunt to take away their jet sweep, instead they stop the jet motion just short on the other side of the formation and speed option the other way, catching us without numbers. That was something we hadn’t seen. Now it’s 20-18.
We get the ball with just over eight minutes left to go before the half. My goal is take it down and score leaving Reed no time to retaliate. We do just that. Taking the ball from our own 35 we march the ball down to the Reed 10 with just under a minute left. We throw an 18 sweep option pass on first down, hopefully the Corner and Safety are looking run. Our QB as instructed throws it away if it’s not there and if he doesn’t have the corner. He does just that, exactly the way he has been taught, however he gets called for grounding. We definitely had a player close enough not to be called for it, but we did.
We ended up surrendering the ball on downs at the three with just 7.6 seconds left in the half. This was a 16 play drive that resulted in nothing. Reed runs a sweep that we almost stop in the backfield, but ends up going 97 yards for the score as time expires. So instead of going into the half with a 28-18 lead, we are down 26-20. We had the ball for 49 offensive snaps in the first half to Reed’s 10 and we were down by six points?
Our kids were heartbroken. While we were still in the game, as we had consistently moved the ball, that body shot just before the half was devastating. When you take over a team that has consistently lost, it’s very difficult to help them convince themselves that they deserve to win. I stayed positive, talked almost exclusively about all the good things we had done. Defensively we had been in position to stop them, but just weren’t tackling well. At this point we just didn’t have many options to make changes, we just couldn’t match their speed and ability to cut back. In an attempt to match their speed, our kids were overcompensating and overrunning the plays. Film would show some other mistakes, but from this is what we saw now.
Reed took the opening kickoff and scored in six plays to make it 34-20. We got the ball back and drove it right down to Reeds 10 yard line before a botched snap yielded a turnover, they still hadn’t really stopped us. At this point, I couldn’t go slow and take time off the clock, we were playing to win it, not to make it a close game. Reed went right down and scored again to make it 42-20. How would our kids respond? They didn’t give up no one was quitting, we drove it right down and scored in nine plays to make it 42-26, with an onside kick and score we would be back in it. We just missed another recovery and Reed scored again to make it 48-26.
Reed was pissed we had scored so many points. At this point in five games only one team had scored on their first team defense. So they still had all their starters in on defense, right to the final gun. We subbed and hurried to score again, but Reed scored as time ran out to make it 52-26. Our kids never stopped playing hard, never showed poor body language or layed down. We played poorly on defense in space, anything between the tackles was shut down. On offense we left 14 easy points on the field.
Reed hand played nearly mistake free football and beat us by four scores. I felt with some improvements on defense and playing our best game, we could have shot at beating them in the championship game if we made the playoffs. I was proud of how hard we had played, but disappointed we had squandered a chance to upset them. There would be plenty of changes in store if we had a chance to play again.