Double wingin' it

Juneau dusts off play from 1920s to help defeat Chugiak

Posted: Sunday, August 27, 2000

During a scoreless game early in the first quarter against Chugiak Friday, the Juneau-Douglas High School football team reached back into the archives of history to aid in its 27-25 victory at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.

The Crimson Bears dusted off the double wing, an offensive formation devised by legendary coach Glen "Pop" Warner in the 1920s. The formation, which appears like the tight, huddled formation offenses use to run out the clock, is effective because defenses can't see what the offense is going to do.

"The fullback lines up so tight to the quarterback, only two yards back," offensive coordinator Mike Hutcherson said. "The defense can't see whether he's got the ball or not."

The offensive line normally lines up about a foot apart from another. In the double wing, lineman line up foot against foot, which further shrouds what the offense is doing from the defense.

"They're so tight, so close together that nobody can see what's going on," Juneau quarterback Brett Fairchild said.

Hutcherson said he was looking for a formation to run against the beefy Chugiak defensive line. He found the answer in a video that claimed several high school state champions used the double wing with great success.

For one key series in the first quarter, Chugiak couldn't stop it. Juneau running back Sione Tupou rumbled nine yards for a first down; fellow back Jason Cameron had a 12-yarder a play later and Kit Ritter followed with a 9-yard run for a first down. Tupou capped off the six-play, 64-yard drive with a 23-yard touchdown run for the game's first score.

Chugiak coach Travis Cantrell said he recognized it after the first few plays, and lined up six linemen to stop it. Chugiak stopped Juneau's double wing plays on the next offensive series, but the Crimson Bears did convert a big fourth down using the formation in the fourth quarter.

"They didn't hurt us too much with it," Cantrell said.

But Juneau head coach Reilly Richey said the advantage is the double wing can be mixed in with other plays to throw off a defense. Juneau did just that, mixing the double wing with more convential running and passing plays.

"I don't think there was anything in coach Hutcherson's playbook that he didn't use tonight," Richey said.

Richey said now that the cat is out of the bag, other teams will surely prepare themselves to defend against it.

"We looked at it, and we couldn't think of any team in Alaska used it, so we said 'What the heck?'" Richey said. "It was unconventional, and it worked."

Coach Hutcherson said he knew the double wing was an old offense, but he had no idea how old. The helmets were made of leather and facemasks were yet to come when the double wing was in fashion.

"Wow, everything that's old is new again," Hutcherson said.

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