Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

Playoff Bound or Not? Youth Football Worst to First

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Going into this game we felt fairly confident even though we had identical records. 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 in the largest and most competitive league in the Reno/North Nevada area.

This would be game 8, the hay was in the barn, we had practiced well and with the exception of being able to practice a bunch of much needed open field tackling due to numbers and injury issues. While they had speed and athleticism, they didn’t have it all over the field and they had small numbers, just 20 players. If we held onto the ball with our backup Center at the helm and the kept up the fast pace, we should be in good shape against an evenly matched team with the same record as us. But who really knows, when you are coaching youth football teams that have won just 6 games in 6 years, you don’t know how the kids were going to react to the pressure.

Fallon received and started out in a pro-style one back look with trips or twins. They drove the ball inside our 10 on a 13 play drive evenly divided between the run and pass,  but we held as they tried to counter and bootleg on the last 2 downs of the drive. We promptly drove the ball down the field using our base attack and an extremely fast pace. We scored in 7 plays, using up less than 2 minutes off the clock.

Fallon took the lead at 8-6 after moving right down the field. This time spreading it out and hitting their speedster on a couple of bubble screens before finding the same player on a post wheel. But unlike what they showed on film, they hit the post instead of the wheel and our Safety was late to the play. We turned around and drove the ball and scored in a quick 8 play drive to make it 12-8.

This didn’t deter Fallon, they drove the ball into the red zone again using both the fly sweep and some well times slants and bubble screens to roll right down the field. Our Achilles heel, the open field was being exposed, they had scouted us well. We stopped them on our 5 yard line as they ran out of some of the room they needed to run some of their passing concepts, we also put a little pressure on them via a seldom called Linebacker blitz

On defense they were now squeezing everything down inside, so we went Spread Single Wing and promptly scored in 5 plays to make it 19-8.  After Fallon fumbled after running off a couple of snaps, we scored on an 8 play drive to make it 25-8.

Fallon wasn’t in deep trouble now, but they were forcing it. On the next series they quickly threw a deep interception into double coverage. Then on defense, they moved everyone within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage and were now sending at least 2 Linebackers every play, they were desperately trying to make a big play. We hit them with a spinner wedge play and scored in just one play. We are up 32-8 now and beginning to feel the rout may be on.

On the next series we widened our substitution pattern a bit to get our backup, now starting Center to sit out on Defense. Fallon went to the inside game, using quick orbit motion and a very effective crossfire backfield action to take the ball right down the field and score in a very patient 7 play drive. Their great kicker hit it again and now it’s 32-16, a two score game. They onside kick right into the chest of our our minimum play players and recover. They proceed to march the ball down using a combination of play action passes and their newly found inside running game to score and make it a 32-24 game.

On the ensuing kickoff we were VERY fortunate to recover. On offense we spread the field again and scored in 7 plays off a jet motion sweep. On the ensuing drive with less than 40 seconds left, Fallon moves the ball from their 40 to our 30 on a hook and lateral. On the very last play of the half we went to quarters coverage and watched their best player make a huge play catching the ball between 2 of our kids to make it 38-30 at the half. That was the same thing they had done the week before in their squeaker against McQueen.

Our goal of wearing them out wasn’t kicking in just yet. It was a cool night and they were scoring almost as fast as we were. On defense we made a couple of adjustments, we went to cross keying their backs when they went into their crossfire alignment and we put an Outside Linebacker over their speed demon when he was flanked to disrupt his pass patterns.  This was a youth football game, this wasn’t a blowout, Fallon came to play and we were both fighting for our playoff lives. They were pulling out every stop to try and win this one and their kicking game was lights out. Our play was to continue the fast pace, hold onto the football and disrupt the few things they were doing well on offense.

We took the second half kickoff and scored in 6 plays to make it 45-30. Fallon tried to score quickly but this time we stepped in front of the post on the post/wheel and got the ball back at midfield. This time it was a bit more difficult, as Fallon went away from everyone close in and called off the blitzes. Facing a fourth and 6 at midfield, I used the fake punt to maintain the ball. There is no way I was going to give up possession of the ball with just a 2 score lead and with their offense and special teams playing the way they were.

We drove it in to score on a 10 play drive to make it 52-30. But we weren’t out of the woods just yet. They proved they could score quickly and their onside kicks were nearly perfect. Our onside kick finally worked and we scored on a 6 play drive to make it 59-30. On their first offensive play of the ensuing drive we stepped in front of a well timed bubble screen and returned it into the end zone to make it 65-30. We had scored 20 points in less than 2 minutes to take the game away from them.

The fourth quarter saw us sub everyone in, but Fallon wasn’t willing to throw in the towel. On defense they committed all 11 to within 3 yards of the line of scrimmage, they were hell bent on stuffing our offense, even if it was mostly our backups and we were going max slowdown. That meant we would score twice more and the final was an almost embarrassing 77-38. While the game was MUCH closer than the score indicated, Fallon had made things worse by throwing the ball late and continuing to stunt and blitz.

We had survived the challenge and were going to be in the playoffs for the very first time in the 7 year history of this team. No major injuries, no bad snaps, no turnovers and just 2 penalties. I slept well on the fight back to Nebraska early the next morning.

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  1. J Schroeder

    During the time you were there, did any of the coaches from the other teams ever talk with you? It would be interesting to hear what their take on your team’s new success and how fast the turn around came about. Does Worst to First have an air date yet? What network?

  2. davecisar


    I kept an extremely low profile. I embraced Reno and became part of the local landscape, wearing University of Nevada Reno gear etc
    The show is still being shopped to several networks by the Production Company, we don’t know where it will air.


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