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The Offense That Refuses to Die
John Walters
October 05, 1998
Disciples of the single wing loudly sing its praises and ardently seek converts
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October 05, 1998

The Offense That Refuses To Die

Disciples of the single wing loudly sing its praises and ardently seek converts

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Last fall Bliss, who had adopted the single wing, took a job at a school, Conway Springs ( Kans.) High, that had moved to a new building and did not yet have a practice field. Bliss's boys practiced in a pasture used for rodeos. Despite the handicap of cow chips, Conway Springs finished 11-1. Its offense produced 456 yards per game, tops in the state.

"Football coaches are some of the dumbest people I know," says Patterson. This is Legends Day. Carle, Patterson and Wetzel have the floor. The younger coaches here regard them the way hackers view Bill Gates and Steven Jobs.

In 1967, his final year at William Jewell, Patterson was in the midst of a 10-0 season. Nevertheless a rival coach badgered him to get with the times. "When are you going to convert to the wing T?" Patterson was asked.

"We do O.K. with this," he replied.

"Yeah, but everyone in the league—"

"You just gave me my answer," said Patterson.

Single wing coaches are often as eccentric as their offense. Patterson had his players audible in Spanish—after all, William Jewell had a two-year Spanish requirement. Wetzel's playbook had quick kicks and fake quick kicks and downfield laterals. "Gentlemen, I've got it on tape," he says. "We scored a touchdown against New Mexico Highlands on a play where we lateraled five times. The guy who scored is the guy who lateraled first."

The single WING is, in one sense, a parlor trick. The more people who know how to perform it, the less magical it seems. The last time two coaches at this symposium faced one another—Ted Hern's Taos (N.Mex.) High versus Frank Ortiz's Santa Rosa (N.Mex.) High in 1997—the final score was 2-0.

In 1971 Carle, irritated that Colorado College had lost its last three games to William Jewell by an average margin of 25 points, devoted spring practice to stopping the single wing. He taught his offense the single wing so that his defense could prepare for the season-opener at William Jewell.

Carle's assistant, Frank Flood, made the Copernican leap: Why don't we run the single wing? Colorado College won 16-13 and never looked back. Carle's single wing so flummoxed the opposition that in 1972, after St. Mary of Leavenworth, Kans., lost 52-16 to the Tigers, a linebacker from St. Mary wrote Carle a letter. "I have never had so much trouble locating a ball. I have never felt so inadequate," the player said. A sense of inadequacy propelled Mickey Thompson, the coach at Parkview High, to bring his seven-man staff to Manitou Springs. "We made the state playoffs eight of nine years," says Thompson during lunch on the second day of the symposium, "but we've been 5-5 and 4-6 the last two seasons. We need a change."

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