Author: Ted Seay
Originally Published: January 27, 2005
I got my start in coaching in 1974 at the age of 16, preparing for the “powder puff” football game scheduled for November between the junior and senior class girls. Right before the end of my sophomore year in June, I made a trip down to the San Francisco main public library to see if I could find an offense that was simple and effective for people who had never played organized football before. I came away with two gems: Dr. Kenneth Keuffel’s Simplified Single Wing Football, and Dutch Meyer’s Spread Formation Football. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the two offenses would complement each other, while not demanding too much additional learning for any of the players.
That summer, I also got an offer to assist with the coaching of a Police Athletic League club, the Seahawks. Since they practiced fairly close to my high school, I figured I could give them a hand even while I was coaching the girls and trying out for varsity football for the first time (up until the early 1970’s, San Francisco’s public high schools were three-year programs, and I spent the fall of my sophomore year playing my first organized football on the sophomore team, which competed against frosh/soph teams from around the Bay Area). Of course, I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into…
August rolled around and the head coach of the Seahawks got reassigned out of San Francisco by his employers. The assistant was promoted to HC, but since he only ever handled the defense, he asked me if I could help with the offense. With Dr. K and Dutch in hand, I confidently replied that I could get a core unbalanced single wing offense installed in two weeks. The crazy thing was, I did. On both teams.
With the PAL club, the focus was on the power off-tackle play, and how to block the most common youth defenses of the day — the 6-2 and 7-1 (7-Diamond). That took an afternoon, after which we worked on a fullback wedge, the optional running pass (in lieu of a sweep), a wingback reverse inside tackle, and one dropback pass (Dr. K’s deep wingback cross play). Within six days we had the offense installed, and fortunately the head coach knew enough to rep the heck out of all five plays for the two weeks that remained before our first game.
Meanwhile, the girls team presented different challenges. The basics needed even more time than they did with the 10-11 year old PAL team, obviously, and then there was the flag question. Could we run single wing football in the flag context? As it turns out, yes. The optional running pass was an awesome play from the start, with edge defenders finding themselves in an impossible bind the very first time we ran it. It put the ball in the hands of our best athlete, our tailback, and broke her outside of containment with the ball and receivers in front of her — on a monotonously regular basis. Beyond that, we put in a wide wingback reverse with sweep blocking and a fullback seam buck. That was it. I started to install the same dropback game that I did for the PAL club, then suddenly slapped my forehead and remembered the TCU Spread. Why not give the defense a very different look and set of problems with little additional coaching for the girls? (Always an important consideration, given that we had an hour a week to practice if we were lucky).
So in went the Dutch Meyer offense, and suddenly we were throwing dropback passes with receivers all over the field. We quickly adapted the fullback seam buck, reasoning (correctly) that it would have a much better chance of succeeding from Coach Meyers’ Normal formation than it would from the single wing. Then I had the bright idea to add the optional running pass and a fake reverse optional running pass to the TCU Spread, and there we had our offense — two formations and seven plays. There was enough commonality in the two arsenals that players basically only had to remember where to line up in which formation. That took three weeks, mind you, but we got it done.
Just to prove that auto-plagiarism is the finest kind, I introduced the TCU Spread and its deep passing game to the PAL club. We quickly got the team lined up and running two dropback passes, and suddenly the offense seemed to gel. Our kids knew we were doing some pretty radically strange stuff, and they really enjoyed it. “Seahawk Ball” stood for something different and exciting, and we had a really good vibe going into our first game.
And then there was the varsity football team. I got my butt kicked in double-sessions as I rarely had before in life, and between the start of school and the physical drain of football, I was suddenly up to my ears with football teams to coach. I explained to the head coach that my commitment to the Seahawks would be reduced in terms of attending practice during the week, but that I would be there for every Saturday afternoon game (Lowell’s varsity played Friday afternoons). He said he understood perfectly (and I think he knew I was biting off more than I could chew). We had the offense up and running, and he was confident he could rep it and fine-tune it during the week. As it turned out, he was right. The Seahawks had the best season in their brief history, going 6-1 after having finished 1-6 the year before with substantially the same talent. The single wing ground game and the TCU aerial threat combined to confuse defenses, and ended up averaging five touchdowns a game.
Back to the girls — they got the plays down very quickly, and our tailback discovered she enjoyed the feeling of sitting back in a “shotgun” offense and finding open receivers. The Dallas Cowboys were just bringing their shotgun offense into prominence, and as a result we nicknamed her “Staubach”. The one game we actually played was an anti-climax, since it was rigged every year by the referees (two borderline alcoholic math teachers) so that the seniors won, but we made them sweat. After the third long touchdown was called back for phantom clips, I huddled the girls on the sideline and explained that there was no way they were going to let us win, but that we were going to lose in style. The result was two more “clips” on sure touchdowns, and a huge moral victory for the Class of ‘76. (The next year we won 52-0 with no help from the referees.)
My first year in varsity football was also a success, reaching the semi-finals in Kezar Stadium only to lose to the eventual champs, O.J. Simpson’s old high school. I gained a great deal of knowledge about the game, and started my acquaintance with the Wing-T that continues to this day. Most of all, however, I felt the first stirrings of a love for coaching that I have never left behind, and as a result I will always have a warm place in my heart for direct snap football.
If I had to do it over again, mind you, I would install the half-spin series from Steve Owen’s A formation…