PREP WEDNESDAY : ADDING A NEW WRINKLE : If the Talent Doesn't Fit the Scheme, Coaches Find They Must Redesign Offense

Times Staff Writer

Leo Hand coaches football at Servite High School. He does not swoon. Except, well, there was this kid . . .

"I swear to you, he could have been the greatest high school veer quarterback anyone had ever seen. . . . With that kid running the veer, that team would have gone undefeated. There's no doubt in my mind."

The veer is predominately a running offense, and a veer quarterback must be able to run. The kid could run. However, his coach, enamored with a passing offense, tried to make the kid into a drop-back quarterback.

The team Leo Hand swears on his clipboard should have gone undefeated, won two games.

And that is why high school coaches can be such irritable sorts. Their options are so limited. Unlike their professional and college counterparts, they cannot draft or recruit a certain type of player to fit into their type of offensive scheme. They have no control over the talent that shows up on the field from season to season.

"If your kids can run, you run. If they can pass and catch, you pass and catch," Hand said.

Accordingly, Servite is playing without a tight end this season. Pat Boltinghouse was an outstanding one, but he graduated. Hand found no suitable replacement, so, no tight end. Servite does have a wealth at running back, so instead of last year's one-running-back backfield, there are three.

"If you aren't changing what you do according to your talent, you're either out of the business or the boosters just don't care how much you lose," Hand said.

Across Rivalry Way, Mater Dei Coach Chuck Gallo still runs his pro-type passing offense, but has made use of an option set this season.

"I've always had it in my offense," he said. "It's just that this season we have the athlete (quarterback Mark Ramstack) who can run it."

They're running the triple-option at La Habra, the wishbone at Bolsa Grande, Woodbridge doesn't even bother with a huddle and teams with a paucity of talent are taking refuge in the Delaware wing-T.

"You do what you have to do," said Dick Hill, Santa Ana coach. "Anyone who isn't willing to learn new things, or put new things in to make use of his team's talent, really does his team an injustice."

About 10 years ago, Terry Henigan was sitting in front of a television set watching the NCAA's Division I-AA football playoffs. He was fascinated by a little piece of chaos called the wing-T offense. Misdirection, multiple handoffs, reverses, pitches, men in motion, it was football at 78 r.p.m.

But it worked. The Delaware Blue Hens, under Coach Harold (Tubby) Raymond, were, and remain, one of the most successful teams in I-AA.

Henigan, the coach at Cypress at the time, made a few phone calls to find out more. When he found out Nevada Reno also ran the wing-T, he made a trip. When he learned all he could in Nevada, Henigan made the inevitable pilgrimage to Delaware.

By 1978, the wing-T was Cypress' offense. The Centurions were the county's first team to use it and they won the Empire League that season. Henigan has since moved on to Irvine High where he has continued to use the wing-T because he has found the same type of talent he found at Cypress.

"No really big guys, no drop back passers with golden arms," he said. "You don't see teams with dominating players using the wing-T. If you're Edison and have Kaleaph Carter, you're going to run a power-I. If you have a Todd Marinovich or Bret Johnson, you're going to have a drop-back offense. The wing-T, with all its intricacies, gives teams without outstanding talent or size a chance."

In 1985, University was 1-8-1. In 1986, new Coach Mark Cunningham installed the wing-T and the Trojans were 6-4 and made the playoffs. This season, Villa Park (2-8 last season) is using the wing-T. The Spartans defeated Pacifica, 7-6, in their opener.

But, like any offense, as more teams have decided to use the wing-T, defensive coordinators have come up with ways to defend it.

"When I was at Cypress, it was a definite advantage that we were the only team using the wing-T," Henigan said. "I don't think there's any doubt that it's become less effective as more people have come to use it."

Irvine was 1-9 last season.

Saturation has claimed countless offenses. When John McKay was at USC, he brought the power-I into national prominence. But defensive coordinators developed ways to defend it, and by the mid '70s, the power-I had given way to the wishbone--compliments of Texas and Oklahoma. Defenses caught up with the 'bone and in came the passing offenses.

But old offenses never die, they just get run through the cycle. Bolsa Grande will use the wishbone this season to make full use of three exceptional running backs--Ricky Lepule, Travin Lui and Shannon Valdez.

"The veer will remain our No. 1 offense," said Greg Shadid, Bolsa Grande coach. "But we figured that we'd use the wishbone at times so we could have all three guys in the huddle at the same time."

Huddles apparently have become a thing of the past at Woodbridge, where Coach Gene Noji installed a no-huddle offense last season and was 8-2.

Noji came upon the idea in 1985 as his team was being beaten badly by La Quinta.

"I figured why wait to go into our two-minute offense. We needed quick points, so we went into it," he said. "We scored our first time using it."

Woodbridge lost the game, but gained an offense. Though it's unusual to see, the no-huddle, like any other offense, is only as good as its execution.

"The no-huddle is effective at causing some confusion in the opponent's defense," Noji said. "But we've played teams that it has had no effect on at all. When it comes to offenses, it really doesn't matter how clever you are if you can't run it properly or if the other team is just plain better."

Of course, when it comes to changing offenses, the county's chameleon king is La Habra Coach Bob Rau, who's had three rushing offenses in three seasons.

In 1985, the Highlanders ran a one-back offense with all-Southern Section running back Chuck Weatherspoon.

"Every one knew he was getting the ball, but the great ones get the yards," Rau said.

La Habra won the Freeway League.

Last season he went to a two-back offense, "with a lot of motion."

La Habra tied Sunny Hills for the league championship.

This season, the Highlanders will add a triple-option running game to the run-and-shoot passing offense they've used the last several years.

"You're always adding new wrinkles," Rau said. "But most of what you do, your blocking schemes, your terminology, remains the same. It's sometimes just the look that's different."

Which, Noji said, is sometimes enough.

"If you do something unusual in your offense, you force your opponent that week to spend a lot of time to defend that specific something," he said. "So instead of working on fundamentals or parts of their game that need improvement, they're wasting time trying to stop you. Every little thing helps."

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