Offenses capitalize on technology, innovation to light up scoreboards at unprecedented level

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Football teams are giving scoreboards a tougher workout then they did 25 years ago.

The 10 football teams in the SEMO North and South divisions were involved in a combined 33 games in which 40 or more points were scored by at least one team last fall.

"If a team scored 40 points years ago, that was a lot of points," Chaffee coach Charlie Vickery said. "And you see it regularly now."

During the 1983 season, the same 10 schools were involved in 24 fewer games in which 40 or more points were scored.

Offenses nowadays are scoring points at a staggering rate. Hayti was the top scoring team in Southeast Missouri last season, averaging 43.08 points per game. It scored more than 40 points seven times and once in the playoffs. It scored more than 50 points four times and posted 64 points in its final regular-season game against St. Vincent.

Jackson scored more than 40 points four times while posting a 10-0 regular-season record last season.

The 12 teams that made 2007 state championship games scored 40 or more points a combined 63 times, and they scored 50 or more points 16 times during the 2007 regular season.

Local coaches said that more points are being scored by schools nowadays because offenses are spreading the field more to take advantage of the increased speed of players. Likewise, better resources, including the Internet, have become available to allow coaches to research different offensive formations.

"I think offenses are just more wide open than what they were on a whole," said Vickery, who was the coach at Sikeston in 1983. "It's more of a perimeter game than what it used to be. And people are using that speed a lot more."

Spreading the field

Scott City coach Ronnie Jones, who was the coach at New Madrid County Central in 1983, said high school teams had to run the ball to be successful 25 years ago.

He said that having three backs was the norm, and all 22 athletes on both offense and defense were clustered together on the field, within 10 to 15 yards of each other.

"It's not unlikely with the spread offenses of today that you may a lot of times end up with just one back," Jones said. "More times you might recognize that there would be no backs in the backfield simply because they're spreading folks out and they're trying to find those creases."

Jones said that while the offensive mindset back in the 1980s was to power the football, speed is the key today.

"The mindset now is, 'Let's have six to seven athletes touching the football and let's try to find those mismatches and get out there, and if our receiver is better than your defensive back, then we're going to pick on him,'" Jones said.

Jones said that when a team spreads out its offense, more opportunities exist for a defense to break down because if a defender misses a tackle, the next closest defender might not be close enough to help out.

"If there was a breakdown [in past decades], there was a lot of support from other areas that would come in there and try to help," Jones said. "In today's football, the way that it's spread out a lot of times, there is a whole bunch of mismatches."

High school offenses have a lot more plays in their arsenal these days. Jones' 2008 Rams are capable of running about 125 plays during the course of the season, while his 1983 New Madrid squad had, at most, 25 plays.

St. Vincent coach Keith Winkler, who played high school football 25 years ago, said offenses don't stick to one formation.

"Offenses now come up in a lot of different sets," Winkler said. "When we saw offenses so many years ago, they ran a basic set. They came out in the I [formation], and that's what they were. They were an I team and they put two, maybe three, receivers out. You didn't see five wide with nobody in the backfield."

First-year Perryville coach Jim May, who played for Scott City from 1985 through 1988, said his high school team primarily ran the ball.

"When I played, we still ran out of a dead T," May said. "We lined up, and our linemen were foot to foot and we were coming at you. And it was just a game of you try to stop us. Now you see a lot of four and five wide and shotgun and those are things we never did in high school."

Better tools

Southeast Missouri State coach Tony Samuel said coaches have better resources to learn more plays because of the advancements in technology. He said he and others are able to log onto the Internet, search for an offensive technique or an explanation of a certain offense, and it will pop right up and provide details.

Samuel added that the advancement in coaches clinics across the country has helped, too.

"Clinics around the country have become huge money making bonanzas," Samuel said. "You might go to a clinic and there are 400 or 500 coaches sitting there. Some places you go there might be 1,000. So the learning is more."

Jones attends numerous clinics. He said walking into them often is like walking into a variety store. The coaches who are there to teach are stationed in different rooms, reviewing various offenses.

Speed

While the size of high school football players certainly has increased over the past 25 years, so has their speed.

Coaches said players have become faster not only because of year-round weight lifting, which builds leg muscle, but also because of more speed workouts.

Players have become accustomed to participating in agility drills on a regular basis.

"It's gotten faster," Samuel said of football. "Everybody is faster. There's no question about it that the speed of it is incredible."

May said that he thinks speed more than the overall size of athletes has changed the game. The increased speed has allowed the game to open up more as offenses and defenses gamble more often.

"I just think that right now, in my humble opinion, I think that the offense is a little bit ahead of the defense," Jones said. "So what I'm seeing now is more emphasis on team speed, which is a big thing."

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