Sports: Little Giants spreading their wings, literally

Best Seat in the House column by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

I’m out in Bridgewater last Friday night to see some good old-fashioned smashmouth football in the form of the single-wing offense that dates back to Pop Warner and is currently favored by Waynesboro coach Steve Isaacs.

Isaacs has won a state title with this offense, mind you, so he knows what he’s doing with it. Not that I know much what he’s doing with it. My familiarity is with offenses that employ quarterbacks and at most one handoff per play, which is to say, with anything but the single wing.

So I’m there to take notes on how the wingmen do it. And then I see something I didn’t expect. Four and sometimes five wideouts on about half the snaps, opening up running lanes for Waynesboro’s bruising backs and passing lanes for a talented, er, quarterback, Chet Berry, who ended up completing 12 of his 24 pass attempts for 160 yards and a touchdown, with another sure score dropped in the left corner of the endzone just before halftime.

The Little Giants lost by a deceptive 56-14 final to a powerful Turner Ashby team that looks to be loaded for another run at a state title. TA coach Charlie Newman saw some of what I did out there on the field.

“They’re doing the right thing. They have a chance to be a pretty darn good football team,” Newman said after the game, which saw WHS give the Knights some fits in the first half after falling behind 28-0. Employing the spread, Isaacs gave Berry a chance to pull Waynesboro back into the game with his arm, and he did his best, coolly connecting on a long 55-yarder to Clyde Thompson into the teeth of a Knights’ blitz to get the Little Giants into good field position, then later hooking back up with Thompson on an 18-yard scoring pass following a 25-yard Stephen Brown touchdown rumble to cut the TA halftime lead to 28-14.

Waynesboro lost Brown in the third quarter when Brown, as punter, was roughed on a kick attempt out of the WHS endzone, and that pretty much put the kabosh on any upset hopes. But I have to wonder what opposing teams are thinking now that they have not one, but two, unusual offensive sets, which themselves are in no way cohesive with each other, to prepare for.

“The thing about that single wing – it’s so tough to practice against. We ended up putting the ball in the guy’s hand that was going to carry it midweek just because we couldn’t get the snaps right. It’s kind of a pain because it’s not an offense that you see a lot. Coach Isaacs has done a great job of spreading them out in that, too, because they’ve got some athletes, and their quarterback throws the ball well,” Newman told me after the game.
“We had a couple of nicks because we had some checks that we went into when we knew they were going to go into the spread, and we knew they were going to try to do some different things. We had a couple of minor screwups there that we’re going to get corrected. But overall, I thought the guys did pretty well with adjusting to their spreads and quads and nickel packages that they were running against us,” Newman said.

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Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.


The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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