T-Spurt: Redskins utilize familiar formation
Chicago Bears fans sing about it in their team's fight song. The Morris Redskins fans cheer about it on a regular basis.
The reference is to the old-fashioned T-formation on offense, a look that has become obscure at the professional level but is alive in well in high school — especially at MCHS.
So, just how long has the Redskins offense been running the T-formation to date?
"I'd have to say since coach (Dan) Darlington started (1977)," Morris athletic director and former football coach George Dergo said.
Long enough that generations have now come and gone watching the Redskins get T-ed up.
"My dad (Sheldon) played in 1979 and that's the offense they ran," Morris senior back Reese Sobol said. "We've been running it since the fifth grade and I know a lot of the older guys who have played for the Redskins before get excited when we come out in T, when we roll people over. It's power football and the chance for us to assert our dominance over other teams."
Much of the current Morris crew learned how to run the T-formation since the fifth grade with the Morris Warriors youth football team.
"All of our old coaches and people who know football appreciate it. We've been running it since our days with the Warriors," Morris senior back Jeff Perry said. "Everyone knows it and everyone loves it. It's a pride thing where we say, 'we're going to be bigger and tougher than you and run it down your throat'."
"We were excited to come out in such and old-school Redskins offense," Morris senior lineman Preston Miracle said. "We really take pride when we run the ball in T. We also take pride in the fact that we may not be faster than the other team, but we try harder, that we are stronger and more prepared."
Darlington's teams ran it, pardon the expression, to a tee over the years, and when Dergo took over, he kept the offensive staple.
"It gives you a sense of toughness, where we are going to line up and fire off the ball and come straight at you," Dergo said. "It's a bit of isolation offense, too and there is deception to it. But mainly its about the coach challenging the team to step up, telling the team, 'Here we go, let's seal the drive or eat the clock.' It's a challenge to your own kids where you are basically asking who is tougher and who wants the game more."
Current Morris coach Alan Thorson said that even today, the kids on the team get up when that particular offense is called.
"For whatever reason when the kids hear you call out T, they get a little pep in their step because they know were going to play smash-mouth football," he said. "They love it and they run it well."
Morris almost exclusively ran the T-formation in its opening round playoff win against Rich East. Reaping the benefits on the stats sheet were backs Sobol, Perry and Grogan. All three scored two touchdowns in the contest.
"We consider ourselves a unit. Resse will score on one drive and I'll score on the next drive and we'll be joking around that we're going back and forth," Perry said. "We don't forget about Collin, though, and sometimes I'll even go up to coach and say, 'it's Collin's turn'. It's cool because it's a feeling like everyone's into it and we're going to score."
Grogan plays the role of the team's fullback and mainly gets his number called in short-yardage situations. Otherwise, he's the lead smash-blocker into the line.
"Me and Perry are called 'The Punishers' for a reason. We like to go out there and roll people over," Grogan said. "I like hitting someone and then Jeff hits someone and Reese runs underneath us. I don't even like scoring, I just like killing someone. I'll run the ball once in a while but when we get down inside the 5-yard line, it's my job to just smash it in there."
"Guys like Grogan and Perry, those guys, they just want to run people over," Thorson confirmed.
The benefit of running such and offense, according to Morris offensive coordinator Bill Lauer, is that it makes a statement.
"It's that toughness that says, "We're going to wear you down and beat you up. It also says to the other team 'we're coming for you and we don't care if you stack 11 in the box, we're going to run and you know what we're doing," he said. "There is no tricks to the offense. We're going to run right, we're going to run left. It's nice to be able to run behind our line and then putting Danny (Friend) on the edge and him blocking down on little linebackers and corners."
Technically speaking, Lauer also pointed out what the T does.
"With T, you get to cut your splits down with the linemen," he said. "It helps us pick up blitzing linebackers and those shooting gaps. It's our power formation where we cut down the splits, fire off the ball and whoever is in front of you we're going to run them over."
Morris senior lineman Craig Claire thinks that the Redskins run the formation well because of their conditioning.
"We love it. It defines our team. It's us saying 'we're going to pound the ball. We're going to come at you'. It's a great offense to run," he said. "My dad told me the other day that even if another team can stay with you in the first half, they are not going to be able to stick with you in the second half. With the T-formation, we can wear down teams."
Which leads to games with Morris running the ball 46 times for 236 yards, like it did against the Rockets.
Claire said the best part of running the T-formation as a lineman is watching a teammate score.
"It's knowing that when you get a good block that you know a hole is there and I can trust the other linemen to help keep it open," he said. "When it all comes together, out of the corner of your eye, you'll see things opening up and when the running back crosses the plane of the goal line for a touchdown, it's an awesome feeling."