Sunday, October 12, 2008
A-11 Offense: Halfway Through the 2008 Football Season
As this halfway point in the 2008 football season, respectfully it seems like a good time to take a look at some of the arguments put forth by a loud minority in the football world who cannot stand anything having to do with the A-11 Offense. And, it is also a solid time to look at some of the teams using the A-11 Offense, how they are doing with it, what they are doing with it, and what it means for the future of high school football and beyond.
The loud minority in opposition to the A-11 have beliefs steering them towards vehement dislike for this new style of offense because they feel it unduly exploits the numbering exception, or it is not “real” football, and finally that it will ruin the game forever. However, to date: 41 states in America have approved the A-11 Offense, with seven states and the District of Columbia not allowing it for now.
Looking back into last year prior to the 2007 football season, after the A-11 Offense was submitted to the NFHS and CIF for review, and then approved by the CIF; there was concern that this new style of offense with “potentially eligible numbered” receivers spread all over the field would be impossible for Officials to properly manage, etc.
As of now, the overwhelming majority of Officials who have actually worked games involving teams using the A-11 have made it clear the A-11 is indeed very workable by the officials, and it is much easier to manage in person than on a grease board. Again, those are the professional opinions of most crews having worked the games in which the A-11 was utilized.
Also, there is a little known sidebar to this as well…in 9-man tackle football the numbering requirements for eligible players to receive a forward pass do not exist, and so eligible receivers are only identified by the officials according to the actual position on the field each player occupies on that play prior to the snap. In other words, the A-11 merely adds two more players into the mix for the officiating crews to cover.
Unfair advantage: The loud minority believes the A-11 provides the offense with an unfair advantage over the defense because the defense will have less time to I.D. who will be eligible or not on any given play until a few seconds prior to the snap. As will be detailed later in this essay, some teams are winning games with the A-11, and some teams are not winning, just like it is with any other offensive system in football.
Please take a look at some of the schools using the A-11 throughout various parts of the country, and then we’ll examine what they are doing with it, and how they are doing:
Piedmont High - CA, Saddleback Valley Christian - CA, Trimble County - KY, Madison County - AL, Mission SF - CA, Riverside-Brookfield - IL, Horizon Christian - OR
Gar-Pal - WA, Tullahoma - TN, American School – Japan.
Piedmont is 2 – 3 overall and has expanded it’s A-11 scheme beyond its initial season of use in 2007 to employ more motion, shotgun zone fly concepts, leads, counters and waggles. The Highlanders have hung tough with two outstanding football teams loaded with Division 1A talent: Bishop Stallworth and Encinal, powerhouse football teams that defeated Piedmont.
Saddleback Valley Christian, CA (SVCS): The Warriors are 5 – 0, and have incredible team speed but not much size. Their A-11 Offense is thrilling to watch and sometimes their players are moving at such a rapid rate, it appears as if the actual video speed is on fast-forward. In addition to the base system of the A-11, SVCS has incorporated massive amounts of motion, reverses and sweeps, again everything being executed in hyper-drive.
Madison County, AL: Madison is 6 – 0 using various A-11 packages to let their talented players operate in wide-open space scattered about the field. Their precision passing game is worthy to note.
Mission – SF: The Bears are 4 – 2, with remarkably gifted athletes in a few key positions, such as RB and two of the WR spots. For the first time in more than 45 years, the Bears have chance to compete for the San Francisco AAA title, something that would be a tremendous accomplishment for a school that almost tanked its football program five years ago.
Riverside-Brookfield, IL: The Bulldogs are hot, after dropping their first 3 games of the season, they are rolling after four straight wins, and in sole possession of 1st place in their Metro Suburban conference at 2 – 0 in league. The Bulldogs SUPER spread out, “pass until hell freezes over” offense is a thing of beauty to behold when clicking on all cylinders.
Trimble County, KY: The Raiders are struggling after having won their opener. Their QB is a physical workhouse type of athlete who rushed for over 200 yards in one game in their trapping, jet sweep and counter trey A-11 system. However, their team is severely overmatched talent-wise, and a few heartbreaking losses have helped to make this a tough season. Hopefully, Trimble will catch a few breaks in their last 4 games of the season.
Horizon Christian, OR: Horizon is 2-3 overall, not bad considering they are very young across the board talent wise. Horizon utilizes a lot of “run and shoot” principles in their system, and with each game their youthful team gains valuable experience.
Gar-Pal, WA: Gar-Pal used their own version of Bubble Screen and Fake Bubble Screen in the A-11 to get a come from behind win recently when pretty much everything else in their traditional offense was struggling. Utilizing some aspects of the A-11 helped them earn the victory, and now they are planning on implementing much more A-11.
Tullahoma, TN: The Wildcats are 5-2 overall and use a punishing running game in their own version of the A-11. Their ferocious attack featuring leads, counters and draws is a force to be reckoned with.
American School in Japan (ASIJ): They are 3-2, having lost some tough games, and earned a few hard fought victories. Their detailed and precise passing attack is worthy of mention, as is their movement passing game.
As can be witnessed by a sampling of a few teams using the A-11, and as is the case with teams using any type of offensive system, some A-11 teams are winning games, and some of those teams are not. Winning enough games depends upon: strength of schedule, talent, coaching, injuries, weather and the amount of bad breaks a team must overcome during each game and the season. Sometimes things go your way…and sometimes they don’t.
Does the A-11 Offense have a place in the future of high school football & beyond?
Yes, the sheer amount of small to mid-size high schools nationwide that can benefit by having the option of using the A-11 is undeniable. Since our coaching staff decided to share everything we developed and learned about the A-11 after the 2007 season, we have been inundated with phone calls and emails from thousands of coaches worldwide who have been searching for a better way to help make their smaller squads more competitive vs. larger foes, and the A-11 does just that.
The A-11 simply gives the smaller schools more of a fighting chance to compete. And, the A-11 greatly reduces injuries to the players, because they are more spread out across the field of play – resulting in less gang tackling and horrific pile-ups, where most of the severe injuries occur in football.
With testimonies of officials nationwide well documented that the A-11 is indeed workable, and with smaller schools now given an opportunity to be even more competitive and safer when utilizing the A-11, it has become incredibly clear in rapid sense that the A-11 is here to stay.
What does that mean for the future of high school football for NFHS schools?
The A-11 meets and/or exceeds all of the criteria listed in the NFHS rules book and the NFHS mission statement. In reality, there is no need for the powers-that-be to try and outlaw the A-11 Offense for all of the reasons listed here and others.
In fact, an even stronger case could be made for the NFHS to either:
1. Change nothing, because the A-11 has proven to be beneficial for the kids
2. Create a new Federation or Exception within NFHS for teams utilizing the A-11 Offense