Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

Youth Football Playoff Week Two- Facing Goliath Again

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So our “Davids” are now in the Semi Finals, one game from the youth football promised land, the finals.  What do we do this week? What we didn’t do was dwell on the past. This team had won about 6 games in the previous 6 years, had accomplished its first ever winning season, first ever playoff appearance and won both the play in game and round one game in dramatic end of game fashion and were now 7-2 in league play.  In these 9 games we were averaging 44 points a game.

First and foremost I didn’t even bother posting the game film on Hudl. It was a great game, but we needed to look forward and not back. I didn’t want this youth football team to feel satisfied.  The McQueen first round win had been a very emotional win, we had to dig deep to beat a team that had mercy ruled these kids in every season they had played. Tuesday was get back to work day.

What were we facing was an undefeated team averaging 51 points per game. More impressive was that their first team defense had only given up 40 points all season and we had scored 26 of those points in our first meeting. So their first team defense was giving up just 4 points per game. They were a pistol spread team that ran both trips and double slots. They had the most athletic Quarterback in the league with a good arm, he was a threat from anywhere on the field. Their Running Back had scored on runs of 97 and two runs of more than 40 yards in game one. While all 4 of their receivers had scored more than 2 touchdowns in individual games, their best slot had scored on us twice in game one, once from over 50 yards out.

We got beat on the toss sweep cutback, quarterback scramble, inverted veer option, bubble off of inverted veer option, speed option away from jet and the bubble/go concept. In essence, we got beat pretty badly when we were in space. How would we address that? Lots of detailed film study and a few small changes thanks to some input from 5 time AYF National Champion Joe Cianflone from Florida.

First off we ditched our stunt off of jet motion. It had worked great for a 5 yard loss the one time they ran jet, but in previous games they had run jet 5-8 times a game. Against us, once they saw us bump down and send a Linebacker off the edge, they just went short motion, stopped the jet back, had him seal the Defensive End inside and then ran speed option to that side. Nice call on their part.

Secondly we split out our Defensive Ends to outside shoulder of the slots. We also made some changes, putting our best Corner at Defensive End and in a very radical move putting our tallest Defensive End at Corner. We had our best DE now aligning on same side as their best slot #10 and that DE who was now a very week Corner was on the same side as their Wide Out, their weakest but still very capable #4. We found that when pressed, this team didn’t like to go deep to the #4 but would often times try and get it to #10. We had those DEs who were now Outside Linebackers to get hands on the slot in press coverage before retreating to their zones, we were not going to let them run bubble screens or smoke screens under any circumstances. Last time our DE/Outside Linebackers just couldn’t get there by playing half way and off the line of scrimmage.

We did HUNDREDS of reads for the bubble and the option run bubble combo as well as every one of their pass and run concepts. But this week we had hired 5 High School kids to run scout, so we were getting a MUCH better look than we gave our defense in game one.

We drilled our Defensive Tackles to death with pressing down on any tackle run-throughs to the Running Back on option and making sure we got width and depth on any reach attempts. These kids were now playing 5 techniques, on the outside shoulder of the Offensive Tackle with no Tight Ends. So in essence they were now Defensive Ends.

All of these changes were coached and drilled in Individuals, Group and Team. At Linebacker we had both of our two best options healthy and starting. If you remember from past posts the best choice I had at one of the Linebacker spots I had held out due to missing some early practices and laying down before a big game. Slowly “CH” had worked his way back into the starting lineup and not had a single missed practice in previous weeks.

This game we would roll with someone different at Monster than we had in game one. In that game our Monster didn’t play downhill at all and seemed to be sitting on the pass too much. That player had been moved to Corner, our best DB, this week he would now be playing Outside Linebacker. This week the kid we had been playing at Monster for most of the season would again be at Monster. He was very green, just a second year player playing his first year as a Linebacker/Monster. He had a real problem reading pass, so we were going to ask him to play very aggressively on the run and when we felt like it was going to be a passing down we would go to Cover 3 and move him to a Linebacker spot and take CH to Safety. CH had played both Corner and Safety for us and had played Defensive Back in years past.

While it may sound like a lot of changes, it was and it wasn’t. When you are coaching youth football with a weaker deck you have to make some adjustments. We were very short of skilled position players all year, so we had been cross training kids since the very first week of practice. So we had to make some changes in order to match up better AND we had to get better fundamentally. The goal was to win it all, not make the game close. While we were averaging 44 points a game on offense, our first team defense was average giving up 18 points a game. We were fine with teams that tried to run at us, but against spread teams with multiple legitimate weapons, we struggled.

In game one we had moved the ball almost at will, scoring 26 points, stalling out at their 3 and 10 and then losing the ball 2 times. We had left 14 easy points on the field. If we could play mistake free, get those 14 points back and score 40, I liked our chances. With 3 days of practice this week we would go 2/3 defense and the rest special teams and offense.

sparks practice dummysHow would the big test turn out? We surprised a lot of people.

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