So how did game seven shake out? The game wasn’t without a little youth football coaching drama. This is the pilot season that was shot for the reality television show “Worst to First” I took an eighth grade team that had won about six games in the last six years to the Semi-Finals in the largest and most competitive league in the Reno/North Nevada area. The starting Corner and backup Fullback who had been held out by mom with all the “health” issues didn’t play again. He fell down riding his skateboard and had a couple of stiches in his lip. During our final practice of the week, he sat next to his mommy under a blanket instead of engaging in practice- which I ended after looking on in disgust. A split lip isn’t an excuse for not engaging in at least walk through mental reps.
We had instituted a very strict, you don’t attend practice, you don’t play policy, and that included injuries. The only excused absence was missing school because of illness. Again, these kids weren’t used to commitment and follow through. I wasn’t going to let the parents bully me into playing their kids just because we were so shorthanded. I had told the parents and players in a team meeting I would gladly lose every game, rather than reward them for a lack of commitment and follow through.
We talked about not letting their teammates down and of course all running had to be made up prior to being allowed back into practice. This player was hard to reach, thanks to an overprotective mom and he hadn’t bonded with his teammates. In this players place I started the former head coaches son who weighed a whopping 76 lbs. This would be a great spot to give him his first start. To discourage teams from running his way I switched and put our huge Defensive Tackle with good feet to his side and instead of going strong/weak, put our more athletic Linebacker to his side as well.
The coaches son had been a two way starter in previous seasons, but he couldn’t/wouldn’t tackle, was a poor blocker, couldn’t catch and while fast, he refused to trust his speed. He also had a past history of fumbling and he did some of that in practice too. He was a likeable kid, who gave reasonable effort, but he wasn’t a very good football player. On any other team, he wouldn’t play much at all.
But the head coach was a good guy. He had for the most part supported me even though it had to be hard for him. Here I come in the last season this team would be together, take over and accomplish something he couldn’t get done. All in all, he took it pretty well, but I could tell he didn’t like the fact his son was no longer a starter. To keep the wolves at bay, I made sure to start his son on all the special teams and got him in early on offense on plays we didn’t really need a Wingback. When we got up by four scores I would immediately get him a carry. In this game I was going to “bank” some goodwill and start him at Corner.
The game was in one of the most beautiful youth football venues I’ve ever coached at. The game started as the sun was setting over the base of the Sierra Mountains in a very nice High School stadium. The game started with us on defense, they went three and out of the Double Slot Pistol, running power, an orbit sweep and a play action pass. We scored in five plays on a run pass option. They got a first down on a penalty, then went three and out. We score in seven plays, as they bunch up to stop our inside running game. They go three and out on offense and are getting desperate, a half back pass and double reverse are snuffed out for losses. We go to Spread Single Wing and score on one play on a Jet Sweep. We recover an onside kick and score in three plays off a Spread Single Wing Wham style play off of Jet Sweep action, the rout is on. The next series we see them try a flea flicker and a double pass, both stopped in the backfield.
At the end of the first quarter we are up 28-0 and start emptying the bench. With the game well in hand we put all the backups in on defense, many on offense too and go into halftime with a 42-6 lead. At the half I talked to the starters in the backfield and asked them to take a dive if they got inside the one. We got the coaches son and another kid who had never scored a touchdown that way, putting them in at Quarterback and running power from the 1 yard line. The opposing team finally figured out our weakness at the one Corner spot and got us for a couple of scores there. The final score was 54-19. We banked a bunch of playing time for our backups as they ended up getting as much playing time as the starters in a game we could have easily scored 80-100 points.
Our first team offense had scored on every possession but one. We had two turnovers, one by the first team, another by a kid who was a lineman and wasn’t used to carrying the ball. We got two turnovers on defense and were called for three penalties. The former head coach saw in real time what a huge liability his son was on the defensive side of the ball, point made.
At 5-2, this set up game eight against a team with an identical record for a chance to play in the playoffs for the very first time in this teams long suffering history. The other team was at our game filming our game, even though doing so is against the league rules. When confronted, they went over to the opponent’s side of the stadium and sat in the top row, then left. Game on.