LITHIA — In the back corner of an agricultural classroom, outfitted with industrial concrete floors and power tools bolted to the tables, Newsome coach Kenneth Hiscock and his staff keep a tradition that dates to the 1950s alive: the wing-T offense.
“It’s about power,” Hiscock said. “Grinding it out, grinding it out, and then all of the sudden, there’s the big play.”
But before a defense can focus on tackling the ballcarrier, the players must first identify who, exactly, has the ball.
Unlike the more popular pass-first, pro-style spread offense, where a quarterback’s options are spaced out for all to see along the line of scrimmage, wing-T formations stuff three players — a fullback, a halfback and a wingback — in the backfield along with the quarterback. The signal caller can hand the ball off to any of the three, or just keep it himself. Regardless, all four act like they have the ball, forcing the defense to play a guessing game.
“It’s the scheme that’s the difficult thing,” said Jeremy Earle, whose Jefferson team takes on Newsome tonight at 7:30. “They always have a fullback who is a tough sucker who runs hard, and they’ve got some athletes on the edge who they play as wingback. And their quarterback ain’t no slouch.”
Will Worth, Newsome’s quarterback, doesn’t shy away from getting hit — in fact, he seeks it out in his dual role as a linebacker. The most important aspect of his job on offense, he said, involves the plays that he doesn’t actually make.
“It’s all about carrying out fakes,” he said while sitting on a workbench in Hiscock’s classroom. “So then whenever I do go back to pass or run the ball, they bite on our other misdirection.”
When Dave Nelson, Mike Lude and Harold “Tubby” Raymond introduced the football world to the wing-T in the 1950s, their formation was the first to feature a balanced offensive line, with a guard and a tackle on both sides of the center, who snapped the ball to the quarterback right behind him. This revolutionary scheme led Louisiana State University (1958), Notre Dame (1973) and Delaware (1971, 1972, 1979) to national championship victories.
Newsome runs a more “modern” version of the wing-T, Hiscock said. The Wolves’ schemes include jets and rockets, plays in which the wingback starts on one side of the line, runs behind the quarterback at full speed, then continues up the other side of the field. The quarterback can pitch or hand him the ball. Or he can just pretend to get the ball and hope the defense follows the wrong man.
The speedy jets and rockets may rely less on blocking from the offensive line than the traditional halfback and fullback runs up the middle of the field, but the mentality remains the same.
“We’re more hard-nosed than other teams,” Worth said. “We do our jobs and try to bust them in the mouth.”
The wing-T doesn’t demand that a team have big, 280-pound offensive linemen, Hiscock said. The guards, though, do need to be quick enough to pull out of their usual blocking zones and run to a prearranged side of the field.
“When you get a 200-pound lineman that can block, that’s gold,” said Spoto coach Dale Caparaso, whose team also runs the wing-T.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of Newsome’s old-school system is that opponents only have four days to prepare their defense. That’s a challenge for any team, even one coming off a state championship win.
“I don’t think it’s an offense you can shut down because there are so many things they can do,” Earle said. “We’re definitely going to have to bend but don’t break.”
Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this report.