Attaining Numbers to Defend Power Read/Stretch Read

Sep 16, 2018 | Defense, Game Planning, Defending Specific Offensive Systems and Concepts

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



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


Every team has that a “go to, bread and butter play”.  In defending a team that runs Stretch Read,  “Stack Away” from the running back fits our overall philosophy the best.  In defending this play, the idea is to take away that QB run up the middle and force him to give the stretch making the RB run wide.  We put six defenders on the QB and pursue to the stretch.  This will overwhelm the point of attack and create hesitation and indecisiveness in the QB.

Diagram 2