Double-wing offense makes comeback in City Section football
What in the name of John Elway is going on at Granada Hills High? The Highlanders were one of the first teams to use the spread offense under legendary football coach Jack Neumeier more than 40 years ago, when their quarterback was the future Hall of Famer. Now they’ve switched to … the double wing.
It happened last April, and it was no April Fool’s Day joke.
Bucky Brooks, the third-year head coach at Granada Hills and a former NFL second-round draft pick, tried it after consulting with coaches who ran the offense at El Camino Real, Compton Dominguez, Los Angeles Roosevelt, Fullerton Sunny Hills and El Monte.
“We did it because I felt it was something I was always intrigued by and fit who we are and what we are about,” Brooks said. “We don’t recruit. We take whomever shows up. We were going to have big guys and a big offense. It allowed us to run the football and lean on our offensive line.”
Granada Hills ended up producing the most exciting running back in the City Section, sophomore Dijon Stanley, who rushed for 233 yards against Reseda Cleveland, 128 yards against Lake Balboa Birmingham, 307 yards against El Camino Real and 341 yards against Woodland Hills Taft. Stanley just picked up a scholarship offer from Michigan and is suddenly considered one of the best from the class of 2023.
Other teams, however, with depleted rosters and offensive lines lacking in size and numbers, are turning to the double wing to keep them competitive.
“I think that’s one factor,” Roosevelt coach Aldo Parral said. “Another factor is the fact since everyone is going to the spread, the double wing gives us a distinct advantage because they’re not seeing a system they’re used to.”
Roosevelt is in its fourth year using the double wing, and its best lineman will be 5-foot-5, 200-pound offensive guard Fredy Perez. When he first came out to play football as a sophomore, Perez said he wanted to play running back, “but it didn’t work out.”
Now he’s the critical pulling guard, using his quickness against taller, bigger defensive players.
“The linemen are responsible for making gaps for the running backs,” he said.
After no summer activities in 2020, athletes have been especially active since the last school year ended, making up for lost time.
Size is not key to blocking in the double wing. It’s all about angles and using double teams to create openings for the two wingbacks and fullback. Even the quarterback blocks on every play.
“What it comes down to is, because of the exodus of talent, you have to deal with average kids technically, “ Parral said. “We’re able to outmaneuver the [defensive] tackles and ends who are bigger and not as quick.”
The offense gained popularity in youth and high school football in the 1990s with former Bloomington coach Don Markham, who ran clinics for coaches and is credited with creating the offense while he was at Riverside Ramona (1986-88). Bloomington scored a national record 880 points during the 1994 season.
Parral said he first ran the offense in youth football in 1993 when he had to find a way to stay competitive playing against future high school stars from Crenshaw and Long Beach Poly. “It was either getting blown out 50-0 or losing 28-7,” he said.
The fullback lines up immediately behind the quarterback, flanked by two wingbacks. Many plays rely on deception, pulling guards and pulling tackles, and the quarterback is responsible for lots of handoffs. “The whole point is for you to get more players at the point of attack than the defense can muster,” Parral said.
North Hollywood coach Scott Faer ran the offense successfully at Reseda Cleveland before bringing it to the Huskies last spring and producing a running back, Anthony Brookins, who gained 311 yards in one game.
“I call it the caveman offense,” Faer said. “The advantage of double teams and pulling and misdirection is a benefit for teams with a depleted roster and undersized guys.”
Sportswriters love the double wing because games move along quickly, helping them make deadlines. When Cleveland played Roosevelt in a playoff game in 2019, the game was over in 90 minutes. If it can minimize fumbles, the double wing offense helps teams control the clock and frustrates defenses.
More City Section teams are turning to the offense, especially after a COVID-19 spring season in which 16 schools opted not to play. Chatsworth is the latest to consider the offense. Brooks noted the offense is not quarterback dependent and is pretty simple to teach.
Practices begin with many obstacles to overcome and protocols to follow.
So what does John Elway, now the Denver Broncos’ president of football operations, think about his alma mater, one of the birthplaces of the spread offense, running the double wing?
“He just wants us to be successful,” Brooks said.
The Highlanders might just be that team. They are considered one of the favorites to win the West Valley League this coming season along with Birmingham.
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