cs icon 70



By Michael Bellacosa, Defensive Coordinator, St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School (NY)

Using under fronts to defend spread stretch or power read scheme. Read the report.

By Michael Bellacosa
Defensive Coordinator
St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School (NY)



Insiders Members: Login here to access the full-length version of this report. 



I have always believed that best way to play defense at the high school level is to take the reactive nature of defense out of the equation and take an offensive play calling approach to this side of the ball.  Over the past six seasons, the SJB defense has implemented a multiple front attack stemming from a Base 4-3.  The objective is simple, to overwhelm the point of attack with movement and different angles.  This approach seems to have put our opponents on their heels and taken their best options away.  The Tackle box must belong to us.  By overloading the line, we must stop anything from breaking through the middle or its points for the other team.  By spilling everything to the sidelines, we are playing to our strengths, which is fast flow and pursuit to the ball.  We have not been blessed with tremendous size and stout players across our front.  Running sideways equals no gain.  The fastest way to the end zone is straight up the middle. 

Over the years there has been no play more challenging to defend then the stretch read out of the spread.  Whether it is an even 2-2 set, 3-1 or even the Jet Sweep to QB Read, this play requires discipline and assignment football while maintaining our aggressive identity. 

Diagram 1 shows our Base 4-3 defense numbering our safeties and linebackers 1-5 from left to right for our blitz purposes in other packages.  Our defensive line has specific landmarks to hit across the offensive line to help keep their pad level down and stop them from peaking in the backfield.  Our base coverage is combo 2-1 man coverage with linebackers picking up the back out of the backfield.  Combo coverage incorporates basic switch principles to defend any pick plays and combination routes. 


Coverage Terms:

Combo Coverage Rules:  Read 2-1.  It is our primary defensive coverage.  Combo refers to a two-receiver side where corner and safety can switch combination routes, inside defender takes inside receiver, outside defender takes outside receiver.

  • Combo coverage will be used to stop middle crossing routes safety to safety (our shallow)
    • When the inside receiver breaks in, turn and run but get eyes on opposite number 2 receiver
    • If the opposite receiver crosses, break down and switch with a cross call
    • If he doesn’t stay locked on your man
    • Waggle or play-action pass as well
      • Corner or safety will pass off the drag route to the free squatting corner
        • Corner or safety will then cover the back out that just faked with QB.


Diagram 1


By sending our #2 linebacker (as seen in Diagram 3) we have essentially put our entire front on an auto to take the middle away.  Our defensive end to the running back is ripping inside the Tackle to the hip of the Guard on snap.  The rest of the front is still in stack rules.  This change up will take away any zone read, counter boot action or speed option.  The 4 LB will be an edge player now setting the fence on the stretch but dropping to hook to curl on pass leaving the 3 LB to play down hill on QB when stretch comes. 

Over time, I began rolling our coverage to a Cover 3 (Seattle) to the field with a Stack Alignment to the Boundary.  High School hashes are so drastic and the boundary essentially becomes another defensive player.  I found my defensive backs adjusting to Seattle coverage to the trips no matter where the football was foolish.  At times three defensive backs were to the short side of the field.  With the Stack Away concept it never truly killed our defense.  However, we did become susceptible to the edge and the solo receiver to the field

Diagram 7 has the offense running the stretch read to the boundaries three receiver side.  Keeping the same call, we now crush the 2 Backer which puts our entire front in an auto taking the reading aspect away and allowing them to hit there aiming point low, fast, and hard. 

Diagram 7



Continue to the full-length version of this report...

Join X&O Labs' Insiders, an exclusive membership-based website, and you'll get instant access to the full-length version of this report—including access to everything X&O Labs has ever published. Plus, if you join today, you'll also receive up to 4 FREE books mailed directly to your home or office. Here's just a small sample of what you'll find in the full-length version of this report:

  • Analysis of the Stack Front, which Coach Bellacosa uses to give box linebackers protection for the pull element of stretch and power read concepts.
  • The “Stack Away” concept, which produces QB indecision, and overloads the point of attack on the stretch element of the concept.
  • The “Crush to Back” concept, which creates movement on the backside of the concept creating problems for the backside Guard.
  • The alignment and technique of the play side defensive end against the block of the tackle, including the “butt to butt” technique that Coach Bellacosa teaches to defend the point of attack on the stretch element.
  • Plus game film on all these concepts.


Join the Insiders today and get your FREE book(s)!

Get Started Here!




My objectives try to stay very simple and very clear so my players will buy into the philosophy, play hard, fast and physical.  With the usual abundance of undersized players, the belief of overwhelming the point of attack and taking control of that tackle box is and always will be priority number 1.  Although this idea may seem to make us vulnerable on the perimeter and in the passing game, a great pass defense is a great pass rush and when you run sideways you are not gaining any yards. 


Meet Michael Bellacosa: Since Coach Bellacosa arrived at St. John the Baptist they have made 2 AA Finals, Captured an A championship and have fallen short in the semis the past two seasons.




Insiders Members Login Here To Access Full Length Reports and Videos