Veer, midline, speed option, and load option are things of the past in Texas high school football, right? These “old school” option plays might be appropriate for a wikipedia article on Tom Osborne, but certainly don’t apply to high flying, spread attacks that are common amongst one of the nation’s strongest high school football states, do they? Fact is, more and more teams are incorporating these time honored schemes into their already complex offensive systems. After all, with the cyclical nature of football, it was only a matter of time before integration of old and new would occur. While some stalwart “pure” spread teams like perennial power Southlake Carroll have stayed true to the formula of running when they have teams outnumbered in the box, and passing when the don’t, most spread teams in Texas are trying to find ways to run even when the opponent stacks the box. Enter the option. Following the lead of college offenses like that of the Florida Gators, many high schools such as Odessa Permian are trying to get the best of both worlds. They are attempting to stay in a shotgun/spread attack while still having a potent running game regardless of defensive adjustments.
Option plays allow an offense to leave certain defenders unblocked while reading their reaction to the play. Such schemes allow offenses to have a chance running the ball even if defenses put extra men around the line of scrimmage. The allure of these plays is not lost on many coaches who do not believe that their teams can be successful throwing the ball 50 plus times a game.
“We implemented a spread option attack out of necessity,” said high school coach Lance Gropple. “We had a year where our quarterback wasn’t going to beat you throwing the ball down the field. We didn’t want to totally abandon the spread because we still want it to be our base offense in the future, but we had to find ways to move the ball without passing.”
The changes in scheme do beg a question though. Why not just lineup in a power formation and run the veer instead of doing it from the shotgun? Several coaches answer that in the shotgun, the quarterback has to be accounted for as both a running back and a drop back passer on every play. That makes the game truly an eleven on eleven contest rather than giving defenses a one man advantage.
Some coaches are still not convinced that implementing option schemes are beneficial to their overall long term success. “We try to just stick to the plan and get our kids familiar with our base/spread offense,” said spread proponent Brad Boyd. “Over time, you have to establish and identity and any offense is successful if executed correctly. I ran the veer in high school, and know how effective it can be, but I also know how much time it took to get good at it. I think it’s a bit much to ask a high school kid to be a good option quarterback and a good spread quarterback.”
It is extremely common for teams to tweak their playbooks every year. Over time these minor adjustments end up culminating complete changes of philosophy. Most Coaches agree that Texas high school football is still a ways away from shifting back to primarily Wing-T and Wishbone formations. Despite the overwhelming success of power running teams like Katy and Euless Trinity in the last few years, the majority of 5A teams in the state still use a version of the spread at some point in every game.
“You’ve got old timers running the same stuff they have been running forever, and you’ve got the younger bucks running spread,” said Coach Kobe Yowell. “It still going to be a while before those young coaches are the grandpas of the profession and a new generation of coaches comes in with an entirely new philosophy. The spread is here to stay for now, even if people are trying to be more multiple out of it.”
These changes lead the fan to wonder what will come next. Perhaps schools will eventually return to the power football that dominated Texas high schools for so long, or perhaps the Miami Dolphins have shown us a glimpse of the future by recently dusting off the single wing and brining it back to the NFL. As for now though, coaches will once again lean on the old bread and butter, tried and true option football.