I missed a football game as coach for the first time in two years so that I could attend and host a fundraising dinner for the TechStart Education Foundation, a non-profit I help run. It is torturous missing a game like this as I am very much aware that the clock is counting down on the number of Matthew's games that I have left to coach in my lifetime. My goal was to prepare the team as much as possible to defend Beaverton and give clear guidance to our on-the-field and off-the-field leaders.
One of my greatest joys in coaching is working closely with Matthew to develop his understanding of defensive schemes, game-time adjustments, and recognition. He is a smart kid that demonstrates great in-game leadership and I continue to be amazed at his ability to run the defense on the field.
While we normally call alignments, blitz packages, and coverage schemes from the sidelines we needed to be particularly adaptive for this game as we knew we were likely to see two very distinct offensive sets from Beaverton: a wide spread with double twin receiver sets, and a traditional power I formation. As I've mentioned before, we run a mix of 3-5-3 and split-6 alignments. Our plan to beat their spread was QB pressure with plenty of outside attacking from our defensive ends. This lead to a scheme where our Mike linebacker would auto-shift to split-6 when Beaverton came out in the spread with a 5-man front. The idea is to get our DEs attacking the outside shoulders of both their tackles to stop both their off-tackle running game and bring pressure on the QB to slow down their passing game. I felt that being in the 3-5-3, while potentially allowing us to be more aggressive with blitzing schemes would over-complicated our underneath pass coverage.
In addition, we also had some automatic blitz and automatic man-to-man press calls from our outside linebackers (hawks) and cornerbacks when they sent their slot in motion back to the QB. This was based on extensive film review and our understanding of their tendencies.
As it turned out Beaverton never ran their I formation so Matthew and his backup ended up calling our defense throughout the game. I felt a bit bad for my substitute defensive coordinator but in some sense he was probably relieved. The results on our defense were very good - four interceptions, including one on their second play from scrimmage that was returned for a touchdown, nine tackles for loss, and only 74 yards rushing allowed. If we had a weakness it was in allowing for some big pass plays (274 total passing yards allowed), but our secondary limited the damage and more than made it up for it with their picks.
Our offense was extremely efficient. Our top three backs had great rushing days: 4 carries for 139 yards, 9 carries for 122 yards, and 4 carries for 78 yards. Our sweep, off-tackle, and counter plays are working extremely well, and I credit significant improvement in our tight-end and wingback blocking for this. If we have a weakness right now it is that our inside trap play is not working like we need it to. Our current thinking is that our centers need to improve their down-blocking for this to be fixed - I'll let you know how this works out on Saturday.
We have a game this Saturday night under the lights again against SEI (Self Enhancement Institute), an inner-city team that our boys will play for the first time in their football careers. They bring a lot of talent to the game so it should be a hard-fought battle.