This is part 3 of my Offensive Play Calling Strategy Series for youth football offenses. In part three I will discuss my opening drive play calling strategy that I use in my offense with my youth football teams. In Part Two, I wrote about scouting and attacking the defense’s weaknesses based on scouting report, like attacking the DE because he crashes on most plays. In Part One, I wrote about overall offensive strategies for your youth offense like running inside vs. outside based on the speed of your youth football running backs.
In my opening offensive series, I liked to run my scripted plays which are a few of our key plays from our base offense and couple of plays derived from the scouting report. I personally like to run up the middle on the first play to test the A gaps and middle linebackers. This also draws the defense into a tight thought process for the next play. If the defense was weak up the middle and allowed 3 or more yards, I usually continue to pound the football between the tackles on the second play and successive plays, until the defense adjusts to secure the middle of the field. My thought process here is, why waste your best plays if simple plays are beating the defense? If the defense held us to less than 3 yards on the first play, I will test the outside with a sweep and watch the defense’s outside alignments and how the defensive ends, outside linebackers and corners react the to the sweep. If the sweep gets less than 4 yards, because the edges are stacked with three or more defenders on the outside, I will then test the C+ gap with a nasty TE alignment and run the wide off tackle play. If the sweep gained 4 yards or more I will run the sweep to the opposite side and test that side of the defense. On most teams, I like to establish the sweep to move the defense wide of the TEs and Slots and get them chasing the sweeping backs so I can set up the inside counters by the wing and off-tackle fullback plays. If none of this is working on the first 3 plays of the opening drive, and I am not backed up within my 20, I will usually run a play from the scouting report that attacks a specific weakness to try to get a first down. I usually do not punt on 4th down unless I am backed up within my 10 yard line. The risk reward of a punt in youth football is usually not worth the risk. If you are in a league that lets you call punt on 4th down and moves the ball 15 or 20 yards instead of a punt, I will usually punt from the 35 to move the ball to the 50 yard line.
If we made a first down on our opening series, I will continue to run the best plays from the first series that gained the most yardage testing both sides of the defense. Once I find the defense’s weaknesses I pound the ball until we see a defensive adjustment and then take advantage of the adjustment. It really becomes a chess match with you and the defensive coordinator to make the appropriate game time adjustments to move the ball down the field.
If nothing worked on the first series and you turned the ball over without a first down, you should talk to your quarterback once on the sidelines and find out what’s wrong. Has the defense adjusted since the last game, have they moved players around are they blitzing a certain hole. Maybe you just had a bad series, don’t worry just yet. You need to get 8 plays or so under your belt before the sky is falling. Take a deep breath regroup and come out the next series.
A major mistake I made as an inexperienced football coach was not tracking my play’s stats during the game. I now have a dad or assistant coach, capture the play stats during the game from the sidelines. After every drive, the offensive coordinator, head coach, and quarterback should review the offensive drive stats and find the best and worst plays, especially at half time. Trust me, what you remember and what actually happened does not match up 100%. Your memory is biased.
Now that all my future opponents know my opening drive strategy, I guess I will adjust. Everyone is different in their opening drive strategies. I know many who want to establish the off-tackle play and pound the ball up the field like Lombardi. Hey, whatever works for your team that scores and wins games is always the best strategy. What works for one Saturday win may not work the following Saturday. What does work is scouting and adjusting during the game. If your offensive strategy is not working during the game, you must adjust. Set your ego aside and regroup. It hurts but it works, and it took me years to learn.
Have fun and Winning is Funner.
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Fort Worth TX