If you were to look at some of the most consistently dominant high school football programs in the state of Georgia, you would find many of them slowing the game down and maintaining possession by running the ball.
Traditional powers like Camden County, Lowndes, Grayson, Marist, Statesboro and Jefferson, among numerous others, all run some variation of the triple-option or Wing-T offense and have done so for years.
What, then, is the correlation between consistency and what could be called ‘old-school’ offenses? It’s simple: most high school rosters aren’t stocked year-to-year with big-armed quarterbacks, imposing offensive tackles or wide receivers with sprinter speed and pillow-soft hands. The best way to maximize talent every season is to use a style of offense that creates numbers advantages on the line of scrimmage and keeps the ball on the ground and out of the opponent’s hands.
North Forsyth head coach Jason Galt, Pinecrest Academy’s Todd Winter and Forsyth Central’s Shane Williamson run ball-control offenses and have enjoyed relative success doing so. In theory, the best way for Forsyth County teams to beat bigger, faster squads from across the state is to run old-school offenses.
Galt runs the Double-Wing offense, which uses two wing-backs, one fullback and two tight ends; splits between offensive linemen are non-existent. He believes the Raiders are the only team in the state of Georgia using it.
"It’s not all that difficult to teach, and now that we’re in our second year with the system, we’re refining," Galt said. "The hard part for players is to learn who to block and assignments on every play, because we see so many types of defensive fronts."
Galt said he "ran the spread before the spread was popular," but switched to the Double-Wing upon getting his first head coaching job in 2007 at Dutchtown High School, south of Atlanta. The Bulldogs finished 2-8 in his first season at the helm but climbed to an 11-2 finish in 2010 that ended in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. Galt took over at North Forsyth in 2013 after the Raiders won just four games in two seasons prior; North won seven games and made the state playoffs last season.
"Our philosophy is to play our best players on defense," Galt said last month. "The teams that make deep playoff runs are all sound on defense and special teams and they run the ball."
The Raiders have a deep stable at running back, including Zac Slaton and Jesus Torres, and quarterback Jacob Bailey is a powerful runner—perfect for Galt’s offense.
Todd Winter, who won five games in each of his first two seasons at Pinecrest and started the 2014 campaign with a win over Class AAAAA North Springs, said his triple-option has been successful with the Paladins because the system requires intelligent, disciplined players.
Forsyth County has plenty of smart kids; recent college-bound football players have matriculated to Georgia Tech, Air Force and Vanderbilt.
Winter learned the triple-option while coaching at Division III North Park University in Chicago so that he could get the most out of the talent on hand.
"It’s a whole lot easier to find a quarterback who can run the triple-option than it is to find a 6-foot-4 gunslinger, and it’s easier to find smaller, more athletic lineman than it is to find a 300-pound offensive tackle," Winter told me last month.
This season’s Pinecrest team looks like the most talented bunch in Winter’s tenure. The Paladins scored 70 points in their first scrimmage, beat Class AA power Wesleyan’s varsity in three quarters a week later and rushed for 255 yards in the win over North Springs last Friday. Pinecrest has five legitimate running threats at any time: quarterback Ryan McCarthy, fullbacks Matt Walters and Greg Varghese and slot backs Adam Guard and Mitchell Ojeda.
Shane Williamson attempted to install a spread offense at Forsyth Central last season. The experiment lasted just three games. The Bulldogs reverted back to the flexbone offense (a version of the Wing-T), similar to what Paul Johnson runs at Georgia Tech.
"We switched back to the flexbone so that there was less pressure on our quarterbacks to throw the ball," Williamson said before this season. "Jake [Gorczyca] and some of our backs fit better as wing-backs than they did in the spread."
Central averaged just 18.3 points per game last season, but the Bulldogs scored 25.3 over the final four games. Shaun Diebel rushed for 189 yards in Central’s 27-point outburst in last Friday’s win over Dawson County.
North and Pinecrest are both firmly in the hunt again for a state playoff berth, while Central is poised to improve upon last season’s 2-8 finish.
That’s reason enough to make me—a 22-year-old reporter—believe in old-school offense.
Foster Lander covers sports for the Forsyth County News. He can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @fosterlander.