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Column: Double-wing offenses are thriving again in prep football

LA Times logo LA Times 9/24/2022 Eric Sondheimer
North Hollywood coach Scott Faer gets his team set to run the double-wing offense. (Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times) © (Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times) North Hollywood coach Scott Faer gets his team set to run the double-wing offense. (Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

With no car for a week, Friday night lights became time for experimentation. A one-mile, 40-minute walk took me to the G Line busway across the street from Birmingham High in Lake Balboa. At 5:19 p.m., my transportation arrived. It was standing-room only for my 20-minute bus trip to Laurel Canyon Station, then a short walk to see North Hollywood take on my alma mater, Sun Valley Poly.

Spider-Man boarded at the Van Nuys stop, which made it feel like a true Hollywood experience. North Hollywood’s campus is under renovation. The old baseball field is gone. A new gym is rising. There's construction everywhere for new classrooms. But I remembered the secret entrance, the gate off Weddington Street, that nobody uses except VIPs.

So began my Friday night to rekindle memories of City Section football but also to see how North Hollywood has become the East Valley League title favorite with the double-wing offense.

Back in the 1990s, when coach Don Markham’s football teams at Bloomington were winning championships and setting scoring records using the double-wing offense, he gained disciples for life. People would come for clinics to learn how Markham could take a bunch of average players and turn them into an unstoppable offense.

The double wing is alive and well in 2022. Among teams thriving are North Hollywood, Baldwin Park Sierra Vista, Granada Hills, Bellflower and Los Angeles Roosevelt.

On North Hollywood's opening possession Friday night, the Huskies used up six minutes and went 98 yards with run after run before scoring on Ronnie Gipson's 14-yard touchdown run. The double-wing dominated in a 54-7 victory. The Huskies attempted two passes all night. They were pretty bad incompletions, so who needs to stop running?

Sophomore Jaylin Burt is going to set many rushing records before he graduates. He's 5 feet 7 and 130 pounds but don't underestimate his ability to turn on the speed, change direction, juke and make defenders miss. He had 201 yards rushing in 11 carries in the first half. He finished with 251 yards and three touchdowns. Gipson, recruited off the basketball team, had 105 yards in eight carries.

The game was halted for 15 minutes with 1:17 left in the second quarter after an adult male along the Poly sideline put his hands on an official during a skirmish. The game was restarted after unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were issued for both teams. The game was halted again in third quarter for 25 minutes after a Poly player became distressed on the field.

Execution is key for the double wing.

“We work to perfect our power pitch and then everything else comes off it,” first-year Bellflower coach Jason Miller said. “Our model is 10 guys block. It’s a great team philosophy for high school football, where 10 guys help one guy carry the ball and you battle together. I like it as a former lineman myself.”

Roosevelt coach Aldo Parral learned the offense from Markham, who died in 2018. Parral used it at the youth level because his teams were being routed by more athletic teams. He’s even adjusted the offense in high school to deal with “exotic” defenses by adding more players in motion.

There’s four basic plays: toss, power pitch, fullback trap and quarterback bootleg.

“Not everyone is lucky enough to get a quarterback who can sit back and read multiple coverages,” North Hollywood coach Scott Faer said. “I love the physical style of play, the double teams at point of attack, the misdirections. If you don’t line up and are not ready to play football, it’s going to be a long night. You have to be physically ready to face the double wing.”

Running backs love the double wing. Everyone is blocking for them, including the quarterback. This season, Roosevelt has a linebacker playing quarterback, Isaac Rodriguez, whose blocking is aiding the running backs.

The double wing is also good for teams with undersized linemen. North Hollywood’s center, Jesus Renteria, is 5-6 and 160 pounds.

“Would I love to have big linemen? Of course, but you don’t need it,” Faer said. “It’s more fun for running backs and linemen. It’s smash-mouth football.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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