McCall’s modified single-wing mixes up opponents

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 16, 2000

TALLULAH McCall head coach Levi Washington has a secret.

It’s not a well-kept secret he’ll tell anyone who cares to listen all about it but it’s a secret that has helped the coach to more than 300 career wins and has helped the 2000 Dragons improve from back-to-back 4-6 seasons to 10-1 and a District 3-2A title this year.

The secret weapon, more than 40 years in the making, is McCall’s offense, a confusing combination of nearly every offensive system ever devised.

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That offense will be unleashed once again Friday night when the Dragons travel to Hammond to face Saint Thomas Aquinas (10-1) in the second round of the Louisiana Class 2A playoffs. The game will be played at Southeastern Louisiana University’s Strawberry Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and admission is $5.

“I’ve been coaching for 35 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it, so I know these kids have never seen anything like it,” Erath coach Jacob Byler said after his team surrendered more than 400 total yards and fell 33-12 to McCall in a first-round game last week.

Washington’s offense isn’t all that complicated on the surface. The quarterback lines up in the shotgun formation, usually with one running back. Built around good skill players, it clicks best with a talented quarterback and receivers, but it’s far from just a pass-oriented attack.

Watch for just a few minutes and you’ll quickly see it transform into a deep passing game with the help of quarterback Dave Williams, a 1,200-yard passer this season, then to a power running game with 2,000-yard running back Jeramie O’Neal.

Watch for a few more minutes and you’ll see a variety of sweeps, direct-snap plays to O’Neal, screens, short passes and option plays that leave opposing defenses gasping for breath and mercy.

“Some people call it a box, but it’s a modified single wing. We run everything that you can run from it, like the Wing-T, the I, we option from it and we veer from it,” Washington said. “We do the same things (as other teams), we just have a different set.”

Opposing coaches have trouble figuring out just by watching film. With more than 40 years worth of schemes and plays to draw from, the game plan and plays will be completely different next week.

“They expect us to be a plain-old, ordinary running team, but every week we mix it up with a combination of running and passing,” said Williams, who threw for 185 yards in the win over Erath last week, nearly matching O’Neal’s rushing total of 191.

The mixture has St. Thomas Aquinas coach Randall Johnson keeping his players after practice to watch extra film. He said his team usually spends about six hours per week studying game films, but will spend nearly 10 hours on it this week.

“It’s the uniqueness of it. It’s not like you’re practicing for something that everybody runs,” Johnson said. “It demands a lot of concentration from the kids.

The McCall system has its origins in the late 1950s, when a young Washington picked up the first piece from legendary Grambling coach Eddie Robinson, for whom he played in college.

Over the years, it has evolved from a Wing-T offense to include other systems that have been used to great success.

“As times changed, as the more techniques came in, I added that formation to it. Like the belly series, the veer, I added those things to it,” Washington said. “As football changes, we change our formations but we stay in the same set.

We don’t really change, but it gives our opponents a different look.”

Washington is willing to teach the offense to any coaches who ask, and several have taken him up on the offer. One Arkansas coach even beat him with it, Washington said with a laugh.

But because so many years and so many different pieces have gone into it, Washington said it’s not something every team can run, and that works in McCall’s favor. The fewer teams that run a given offense, the less an opponent sees it and the harder it is to prepare for it.

“They pull their hair out because the only time they see it is when we play them. This is an original, from us. It’s not something we copied from someone else, it’s something I’ve developed throughout the years. You won’t find it in a book and you won’t find films on it unless you use our films,” Washington said.

Washington added that his assistant coaches all of whom played for him over the years at McCall also play a big part in the evolution of the offense.

“The reason it’s so effective is because all of the assistants played in the system under me, so they know it like I do. They know the ins and outs of it,” Washington said. “This thing hasn’t come on overnight. We do a little bit at a time. And some of the things that I forgot that we did, my assistant coaches remind me of now. They learned it when they were in school here, and then they add that to what we’re doing now.”