In the past 40 years the single-wing offensive formation in football has been altered based on coaches and players. Yet the offense, much like the spread, has become increasingly popular over the past decade.
To those unfamiliar with the offense or the sport of football, it can be described as an offense that shows the most players assembled together at one time on offense. Yet it is one of the earliest offenses ever seen in the history of football.
In the Town of Colonial Beach, the single-wing offense has been a catalyst for the high school’s success in 2004 after the team struggled to post wins.
Opposing coaches have struggled to defend it and players have shown frustration when facing it. So the rhetorical question opposing fans want to know is why it is so hard to defend the offense.
As described by retired Colonial Beach coach and instructor Wayne Kennedy, it was confusing when he started it in 1976. Shifting from spread formations to counters and reverses, opposing defenses were forced to make decisions quickly.
“We had a great deal of success,” Kennedy said, adding that he would shuffle from single-to-double wings on occasions. Some of his ideas came from retired coaches.
Eventually the offense made its way to the local youth football league from Bobby Duke, Kennedy said.
Compared to today’s team, the retired coach said his players dropped a bit lower in their stance.
“My [running] backs got low and the handoffs were low, they meshed and the handoffs were tight,” Kennedy said. “Anything you can do with misdirection and small kids that is a great job.”
In the years that followed with Kennedy stepping down from coaching after 17 years, the offense took a different turn using other formations. It became apparent they needed something new after the 2003 season. The team scored only 14 points in the entire 2003 season under the direction of former coach Jeremy Jack, now at King George High School.
“We really had to evaluate where the program was and search for something to allow our team often times undersized to put our kids in the best position to win,” Jack said.
The now offensive coordinator said it was Scott Foster who brought it back from the 1970s. The staff then tweaked the offense to fit the team at Colonial Beach.
One of Jack’s fondest features of the offense is the spinning backfield where three backs can easily deceive defenders on who has the football.
“It provided that extra level of deception for that split second,” Jack said. “It really plays off a high school kid’s tendency often over pursing the ball or jumping the gun and not being patient.”
The following season, the program implemented the single-wing offense. Scott Foster, Keith Dickerson and Ken Devers joined the program that season along with former head coach Jeremy Jack. The team went 8-1 and the JV team went 10-0.
“It really turned the whole program around running that offense and you also have to have talent,” Foster said.
Foster said one of the things the single-wing formation forces opposing defenses to do is guess where the ball is going.
“You still have to have an athlete to run the system, but I think it does give some opportunities for our students to be successful,” Foster said. “We have to have that with the lower numbers and less athletes. We need every advantage we can get.”
Foster said he started with the offense in the rec football league under the Colonial Beach Youth Athletic Association in 1999. In 2007, Colonial Beach saw the offense really take flight when the team won the Tidewater and Region A Championship. Most of the players on that team ran the offense since the age of six years old.
Assistant coach Pat Ey, was a member of the 10-0 JV Football Team, when Foster joined the high school program. The former lineman played football for the first time in 2004 when the single-wing offense was implemented again after the 1970s.
“We can say the single-wing has won us district championships, region championships and sent us to the state playoffs,” Ey said. “Being out there you have to know your reads, where to go and set a path for that running back.”
Former teammate and assistant coach Brent Steffey said he was amazed at times how the offense misguided defenses.
“It’s not your normal offense and can be pretty tricky,” Steffey said, adding that the action that goes on behind the line can force problems for defenses with so many options available.
The former quarterback said his favorite moment came when the team played Mathews. As Steffey ran with the ball up the middle, the Mathews defense followed his teammate running back Brandon Foster to the sidelines. When Steffey was within five yards of the free safety and last defender he ran away from Steffey to follow Foster. Steffey scored the touchdown.
“I didn’t know where the safety was going because I had the ball and I was walking in the endzone,” Steffey said. “Honestly I was five feet in front of him.”