This record setting offense put up enormous numbers and has led a resurgence at two high schools. See how this offense not only led to more wins, but also improved the overall health of these programs.
By Derek Katris
Head Football Coach
Elgin High School (OH)
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Editor’s Note: In this report, Coach Katris describes how the Double Wing offense helped him re-build two programs. As he tells it, he and his staff were able to generate on-field success, increase player participation numbers and win more games. At the end of this report, we asked Coach Katris to discuss in more detail the impact the Double Wing had on the overall health of these two football programs.
I accepted the head football coach position at Briggs High School (Columbus, OH) in April of 2009 with only two years of experience as an assistant coach. The school only had one winning season since 1996 and a great deal of player and coach turnover. I attempted to install a spread offense my first season. We couldn’t do much right and struggled to a 0-3 start. We couldn’t score, could only inconsistently move the ball, and lacked offensive explosion. We finished the last seven games running a vanilla under center dive, trap, and off tackle series to try to come up with some sort of offensive identity. We finished 3-7 and averaged only 17.6 points per game. We had no offensive identity and lacked team toughness.
Along with the help of my offensive coordinator, my brother, Luke Katris, we found the double wing offense. It had everything we were searching for, however, most of all it gave us an identity. We introduced an offensive system built around the power play. We didn’t need to be bigger, faster, or stronger to be competitive with this system. We believed that with the core philosophy of running power, blocking hard, and running hard for 5 yards every play we had a chance. We finished 6-4 and beat our rival in game #10. The double wing and its power play had helped us turn the program around.
It all started with a concrete philosophy, running base double wing power, and building everything up from there. The philosophy formed an identity that everyone could believe in - always do one thing better than the other team (run power). We improved drastically as an offense and averaged 26.3 points per game in 2010. The offense produced even more the next season (2011), averaging over 31.4 points per game.
After the 2011 season I moved on and spent three seasons as an assistant at two different schools, guiding each as the offensive coordinator in the double wing offense. In the spring of 2015 I was blessed enough to get the opportunity to be the head football coach at Elgin High School (Marion, OH). Elgin was a school with great football tradition; however, it had fallen upon tough times. Low participation in football, no winning season since 2005, and continual turnover at head coach had taken its toll on the program.
The first two seasons we struggled mightily going 3-7 and 0-10, suffering through some very tough losses. We averaged only 18.3 points per game in 2015 and 17.2 points per game in 2016. Year three was the turnaround we had all hoped would come once our younger players grew up. We started 3-0, rushed for over 1,700 yards in those three games alone and set multiple state of Ohio rushing records. Game #1 (553 team rushing yards, #27 state of Ohio team single game rushing history) and Game #3 (688 team rushing yards, #6 state of Ohio team single game rushing history) were now in the record books for most rushing yards by a team in a single game. While later on adding #19 in the state record book with 584 yards rushing in game #9. No other team in state history is on the list more than one time. The season culminated with the school’s first winning season since 2005. We averaged 46.6 points per game, 481 rushing yards per game, and converted 46/60 two-point conversions on the season. In addition, this past season we followed up last season’s success with a more diverse attack. In the process of attaining the first back-to-back winning seasons since 1999/2000 at Elgin High School, we averaged 401 rushing yards per game. We also implemented more of a passing attack adding in 56 passing yards per game. Our scoring average was 45.4 points per game and we converted 41/62 two-point conversions.
What is it about the double wing that allowed for this type of turnaround ability? Everything we do draws from the offense, whether it is in the weight room, film room, or practice field. The offense has literally steered our program from the depths of being one of the worst teams in the state to one of the best rushing offenses last football season in the state of Ohio. The kids own it, love it, and identify with it. When we line up every first play, tough play, and needed play we run power. We pride ourselves on execution, aggression, strength, and breaking tackles.
Very simply the Double Wing has allowed us to do three things very well: develop an identity as a football team, play fast with confidence, and give our players an advantage because they know how to execute against every imaginable front that we could face with very simple adjustments. Our players know from day one our identity of the football program is power. They understand how we win and what it takes to be successful because of our identity. We discuss our identity regularly and hold everyone accountable to it. Our players have very simple alignments, assignments, and techniques that are drilled daily. Through the simplicity and daily repetition our players are very confident and do not experience situations they have not practiced extensively before. I believe this is a very important facet of high school football; the more confident team that plays faster is usually the more successful team. Finally, we develop an advantage because there are only so many combinations of fronts that can be played against our base double wing alignment. By the end of August camp our offensive line and tight ends have seen it all.
There are no surprises, no scary blitzes, and no stunts that need additional time to prepare for. One of the biggest challenges of a well-prepared offensive line coach is to prepare his players for everything they will see that week. We have simplified their job and now focus on the techniques we need to be successful instead of blocking countless fronts. During individual periods we can relay to our players what we struggle with and work specifically on those needs instead of wasting multiple practice periods worried about certain weekly adjustments for different fronts. This has taken our program to another level because we can now master our techniques, force the opponent to play new techniques their players have practiced very little, and ultimately play fast with high levels of confidence.
Rip 24 power (power right). Left Liz 45 power (power left). That is the base of our offense. It gives us an identity, allows us to play fast with confidence, and lays the foundation for our offense. When we install the offense, we install base double wing power first and run nothing else until we do that right at a high degree of efficiency. Our kids understand that we win and lose with this play. We harp that it sets the tone, gets us a yard on 4th and 1, and when all else fails we run it on 3rd and 10. Our rules for power will be broken down below, however, I cannot emphasize enough the mindset you need to create to run double wing power. The quarterback needs to understand and take pride in blocking, our double teams need to create movement, our pulls need to get around and land on linebackers, and our backs need to break a tackle. That is the expectation, every time we run power.
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As we have grown in the system, many changes have been implemented to make it much more difficult to defend. We run a core of six running plays: power, rocket, counter, wedge, trap, and G. There are other plays, but that is the core. We run them out of a base double wing, unbalance, multiple backfield alignments, and incorporate multiple shifts and motions to out leverage the opponent. Tempo also plays a key role from time to time. An efficient passing game makes the offense much more difficult to defend and is necessary to beat tough teams. Much of these pieces were learned over time and with some hard lessons along the way. Power is always the mainstay of the offense, however, the play that transformed our double wing and allows it to do things it has never been able to do in the past is the rocket. In the next report, I will discuss how the evolution of the rocket has given us the ability to get outside and stretch defenses consistently, stay in true double wing throughout the whole game with success, and allow every other play to be more effective.
Meet Derek Katris: Coach Katris just finished his 12th season coaching high school football. He has been the head football coach at two high schools: Briggs High School (Columbus, Ohio) and Elgin High School (Marion, Ohio). Coach Katris is currently the head coach at Elgin High School, where he has been since 2015. Coach has been a Double Wing disciple for the past nine years.
How the Double Wing Impacted the Overall Health of Struggling Programs
By Coach Katris
The double wing helped to revive two football programs that had struggled for years to break through with even a .500 season. In my opinion, once a program struggles repetitively in this fashion, the people within the organization face two real options:
Adapt and overcome or maintain status quo.
In both situations, we went against the grain with an underappreciated offense to help rebuild the programs. It was our best option in an effort to adapt and overcome.
Granted, the double wing itself is more than likely much easier to adopt into a program that has been mired in losing than a program that has been very successful over the past few seasons. Experiencing early success with the double wing helps to sell it and use it as one of many reasons we are building in the right direction. Whereas this would not necessarily work this way in a program that already has a winning culture built. Also giving our players the power to know all rules and assignments with high accuracy and build solid everyday fundamentals within the system allowed us to grow and build the offense with great amounts of buy-in from administration, players, parents, and coaching staff.
The key to the double wing is and always will be trust and buy-in from players and coaching staff. Once the players and coaching staff understand the advantages it presents and how we can use it to compete against our best opponents, then it becomes a genuine part of the football program and culture.
The constant complaints I have always heard about the double wing is the perceived lack of a passing attack and fear of losing kids who want to play within a different offensive system. I understand both of these fears and where they come from. However, some of our most efficient passing seasons came with the play action and boot series’ associated with the double wing offense. I also have never felt at any point while running this offense that I lost a player or could have had more players come out if I ran a different offensive system.
Once success started to come, the players in the program steadily increased over the following seasons. One could also question whether success would ultimately come in a different system, thereby hurting the ability to gain new players and to retain players as well. In respect to the double wing, and any offense in general, the most important aspect of coaching is the relationships we build with our student-athletes and coaching staff and how we sell them on our philosophies of football. If you build strong relationships with the players and coaching staff and convince them to believe and trust in your double wing… then it always has a chance.