How do you know what works on a Youth Football Offense against an unknown #1 Defense?

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youth football offense huddle
Youth Football Offense Huddle

How do you know what works on a Youth Football Offense against an unknown #1 Defense? This is a great question about youth football offenses. I struggle with this offensive issue against new teams and many times for the first game of the season. Everyone hates the unknown! How does your team stack up against the league? Are we as good as our last season and last week’s scrimmage.

The original question emailed to me is below.

Good afternoon, I had a question, on top of having the right roster to run certain plays or formations, how do you know what would work if you don’t know the defense that is normally ran? I was just hired as a HC for middle school football, and doing more research I want to take it by storm and bring the total package. thank you for any assistance.

Coach JG

Plan and Prepare Your Youth Football Offense

I do not think you can over plan and prepare for the season. Make sure you know your league and team in your division if at all possible. Ask all the coaches around you about the league and age division and try to research them as much as possible. Take folks out to lunch and dig around if at all possible.

Meet with Coaches, ex Coaches, Local Coaches, Boosters and Admins

When I move to a new league I do a ton of research before I make the move. I want to know the situation if at all possible so I make sure I can be successful. I always take league VP or President out to lunch and try to find out about what I just got myself into. There will be someone that knows a good deal about your situation, you just need to dig deep. Try parents, boosters, starting QB etc. They can give you tips to do some more research.

Pick the Right Offense for Your Team

I just wrote a pretty good article on choosing the right offense. What is the Best Offense for Youth Football. So take a look at that and match your talent to your offense.

Make sure your playbook has the 15 to 20 basic plays to attack all areas of the defense.

  1. Wedge
  2. QB Draw / Sneak
  3. QB Boot / Waggle
  4. FB Blast
  5. Midline / Tackle Trap Play
  6. ISO Dive Plays all Holes
  7. Power Dive 2+ Blockers
  8. Power Sweep
  9. Toss / Pitch Sweep
  10. BuckSweep
  11. Counter WB / Crossbuck
  12. Reverse WB / WR
  13. Flood Pass
  14. TE Quick Pass
  15. Screen FB / WB / WR
  16. Crossing Pattern Seam / Out
youth football offense
Youth Football Offense – Wedge Play

Scouting is the Key to Winning

I cannot emphasize enough what scouting has done to my coaching abilities. Scouting is key to winning the tough games. Here’s a video clinic on Scouting. I did not scout opponents for many years, until I heard Coach Belichick talk about scouting and then found out his dad wrote the book on Scouting which I quickly bought off Amazon and read in a few days. Amazing and highly recommend.

If your youth football league provides scout film or shares tape among teams / schools, definitely find out how to acquire film on your opponents. If there is not film then ask a parent, coach or player to scout a game and take notes on plays, top players, formations etc. Set them up with a spread sheet or forms that you will want to gather the information.

Top 10 Youth Football Defenses

Well the top 10 defenses in youth football are in my blog post, Time Tested Youth Football Defensive Formations; The 10 Most Used. I will always prepare for a 6-2, 5-3 5-2 or 4-4 defense.

The 4-4 is basically a 62 with the DEs backed up to OLBs. You can think maybe you will see a 5-2 and that’s easy because that’s a 53 with a weaker middle and a stronger pass defense. These four defenses along with Gap8 goal line defenses should account for about 80% of the defenses a coach will see most of the time. Prepare for those defenses, find the bubble weaknesses and attack with your best plays.

Blocking will Win Tough Games

Too many coaches will focus on their skill running backs and leave the offensive line to stand and watch the skills practice for two hours and or hand the OLM over to a rookie coach that has never coached youth football offense or even football.

Make sure to focus top offensive planning, preparation and experienced coaching time to perfect your team’s blocking. And pretty please have more than one blocking call. Blocking is so much more than, “hey kid just block that guy.”

Block, get better at blocking, then get even better and block some more and then Perfect blocking and then perfect blocking more. Many head coaches of youth football offense will coach the offensive line, it is that important!

Scrimmages and Pre-Season Games

I like to have 2 or 3 pre-season scrimmage games before the season starts to work out any kinks in my youth football offense and defense. I try to choose what I think will be an easy scrimmage for my first scrimmage. In the second scrimmage if we did well I will get a more difficult team or team closely match to us after talking to other coaches about their scrimmages. In the last scrimmage I want a top team to find out where we really rank in the division or league.

Perfect Your Base Plays to Run Against Any Team and Defense

So during practices and scrimmages I will perfect my base plays that I want to run against any defense. I know the youth defense will be an even or odd front and I want my 6 to 8 base plays to be able to destroy each of these fronts weak areas. Over the years I expect a 5-3 defense most of the time, and maybe a 62 defense.

I good book that talks about how to attack top defenses is Directory of Football Defenses by Tallman,

Script the First 15 Plays on Youth Football Offense

For the first game of the season or against an opponent I have not scouted, I like to script out the first 15 or 20 plays, I want to run with my youth football offense. I try to stick to this script but I may jump around if needed.

During the this game, I have an assistant coach, player or dad write down how the play worked and who made the tackle, how many yards etc. I do this so I can review at after each possession and or definitely at half time.

If Everything Fails It is Probably Blocking or they are really Good

If the defense is killing everything you try to run and it happens some games, then you’re going against a really good stacked talented team or you are telegraphing your plays or I usually find that my blocking is weak and I am not prepared . Either way do not blame your players for a loss. Regroup and be ready to meet them in the playoffs with some good game film now.

You may need to adjust your blocking calls or move some folks around, especially look at your Guards. A weak Center and weak Guards are killer on youth football offense. All three of these players cannot be weak. If I have been trying to run Spread with two WRs then I may need to move in a TE or both to help out. And sometimes, you may need to have two backs to help block on pass plays.

Be Confident, It’s just a Game

You can do it, just have confidence and plan / prepare. Expect to win some games and do not set expectations sky high with your parents and team. Your staff may have high expectations, but promise low and achieve high to the public. Good luck!


What do you do on a Youth Football Offense against an unknown #1 Defense? Do you do some of the things I do? What do you do different? I would love to hear what you do.

Please leave me a comment below or contact me anytime. I love talking youth football.

Remember to Play for Fun and Winning is Funner!
Coach Parker
Fort Worth, Texas

PS: Stay Safe!!

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