Tag Archives: Coach Lane

Apples and Crackers

When it came to coaching football, I was stupid. Seriously, most of the time, I was too oblivious to things going on outside of football while we were supposed to be doing football. Case in point, apples and crackers.

Apples and crackers? What in the heck do they have to do with football? Sit down, get a cool drink, and I’ll tell you.

It started with early season home JV games, you know those late August/early September HOT games. For this particular first home date, we played an area team who would bring both their freshman team and JV team over for a doubleheader. Me, as JV coach, thought (with the football coach’s blinders firmly in place) this would be a perfect opportunity to practice. Since our JV game would be starting a bit later than usual, we could get a full varsity team practice in. So, I made the last-minute, executive decision to practice instead of letting JV kids have some time off after school. Perfect. An extra almost-full practice. Priceless.

Well, maybe not. The first year we did this, we loaded the JV team up after the practice and drove to the stadium. We arrived about halftime of the freshman game. While standing around before warm-ups, a few of the kids talk about how hungry they are and how they had nothing to eat since lunch. Parents with high school boys are well aware of this time warp, which extends the hours between lunch and 6:00 PM into a seemingly 19-day fasting period for these youngsters. Long story short, I knew we would play like dookie and whine like cats in the bathtub if I didn’t find something for them to eat.

With the visual of 20+ angry mothers confronting me about not allowing their fine sons to eat before playing a JV football game, I scoot over to Coach Lane, explain the problem, and we coaches pool what little coaching cash we have for him to run to the store. He asked me what in the hell he should get for them. I went blank and when my brain kicked into gear, I blurted out the first two food items which entered my mind. Apples and crackers.

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Ten minutes later, after we are completely dressed out and the freshman game is about at the end of the third quarter, Coach Lane returns with four giant bags of Jonathan apples (my personal favorite) and four boxes of Zesta saltine crackers.

That night, the boys ate like kings. I’ve never seen young men enjoy a meal of two completely ridiculous “power” foods like those boys did that night. I was fortunate to grab two apples for my own dinner without losing a limb in the process. Those apples and those crackers disappeared in about two minutes. Smiles all around and life was good.

Game On!

Apples and crackers became a tradition for the first home JV game for the next several years. It was like a team banquet or something for these kids. Some still talk about it. The majority of the time, stupidity fades faster than a shot from a Roman candle. But, sometimes, there is a rare occasion where stupidity sticks and enjoys a long life. The incident of the apples and crackers was one of these rare events.

Live well, boys! Celebrate the start of the 2014 football season with an apple and a few saltine crackers.

Enjoy the snack with the zeal of youth.

Enjoy it for your football memories.

Most importantly, enjoy it for Friday Night in America.

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Season of Thirds

Coach Paul Lane, in his infinite wisdom, indoctrinated the mini-seasons within the high school football season in all of us players and coaches during his coaching tenure. It was a great concept to incorporate with a state system where your postseason hopes depended solely on your performance in the three district games at the end of the nine game regular season.

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Season One: The first three games. Figure out who you are.

Every team has a personality, every team has things they are good at and things they aren’t good at.  Every team has things which lead them to victory and things which drag them to defeat. This is the time to figure out these things. And, hopefully, at least one of these games is against a quality team, a team good enough to expose the cracks in the team.

Personally, I always liked at least one slobber-knocker early in the season to “wake” the kids up and make them realize how much harder they needed to work.

CC@Abilene2009

Season Two: Games four, five, and six. Fixing cracks and finding your stride.

Repair the cracks you discovered in Season One and get better at the those things that shine from the team’s personality. This is the stage of patience and development. Everyone settles into their roles on the team and, magically, the whole thing begins to move forward and grow like a snowball rolling down the side of the mountain.

It is also when high school boys begin to tire of the routine of practice, so it’s time to throw in a wrinkle. Wrinkles? Things like having the Bubbas (offensive lineman) run “no holds barred” physical pass routes while the backs try to cover them for their daily warm-up (Note: Bubbas ruled these passing games) or playing a physical game of “goal line stand” in the mud.

Tigers @ Royal Valley 2008

Season Three: Games seven, eight, and nine. THE CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON

Districts. Four teams, three games, with the winner (and in our later years, the runner-up) advancing to the state playoff tournament.

The Championship Season.

During this stretch it’s time to press the foot to the floorboard and let the engine rev as the team heads down the road. It is time to get after it.

The time is now to put aside the bangs and the bruises, the nagging injuries everybody struggles with this time of year. It’s time to throw caution to the wind and get after it. An attitude of “take no prisoners” begins to flow through the really good teams and a fresh attitude of “second chance” excitement pervades the team who’s had a rough year thus far.

Everybody starts The Championship Season at 0-0.

Hope springs forward.

tigers @ Atchison 2006

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Tenets of #TigerFamily

History. Tradition. The age-old tenets of the Clay Center Community High School Tigers. It is our way of doing business. It is who we are. It is what we do. It is us being defined by our predecessors, following the character and the expectations passed from generation to generation, from decade to decade, and from season to season.

A young man lamented to me last month about how he felt they had no traditions at the high school anymore. He was frustrated. He didn’t seem to fully comprehend what it all means or how awesome it is to be a part of this wonderful tradition. #TigerFamily means more than a hashtag; it means more than just a catchy slogan.

There is a deep, historical standard in Clay County, KS. Not being a native citizen, I tried to learn as much as I could when I was an active part of the Tiger sports coaching family. I’ve heard the stories from former athletes, young and old. I’ve studied the Blackie (Lane) Book and Coach Otto Unruh’s How to Coach Winning Football more times than I dare count. What follows is my feeble attempt to distill all this tradition and all this history into a list of principles and beliefs on the meaning of Tiger Family.

Current and future Tiger Family members, we sit in the middle of a rarefied tradition in Clay Center. The torch is passed. The flame of tradition and history is now in your hands.

What are you going to do with it?

The Tenets 

  • Outwork everyone.
  • Earn everything. Expect nothing to be given.
  • Hit your opponent like a cannon shot, from the opening gun to closing bell.
  • Never back down, never give up.
  • Every man, every play.
  • Get better every day.
  • When the opponent puts their head on the chopping block, cut it off.
  • Hustle everywhere. Hustle is an attitude. Intimidate with hustle.
  • Take care of your own !@#$ business. Do your job.
  • Think explosive, train explosive, play explosive.
  • Be who you are while being part of the whole.
  • Earn respect, command respect.
  • Challenges, direction, discipline, and limits will make you better. Accept them.
  • Be relentless.
  • Luke 11:23 “He who is not with me is against me.”

(There is no order or rank of importance. All are equally important.)

Interlocking CC

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A Wave of Football Memories

A funny thing struck me this morning, a lightning bolt of memories whose beauty and simplicity opened the floodgates. Our local high school, the high school where I coached football from 2000-2008, is playing one of our biggest rivals at home Friday night. This morning Coach P. Lane sent a message asking if I still had the records and scores handy for games played against this rival during our coaching tenure. He explained the local sports reporter wanted these results for his preview article. I was able to piece together scores from 2004-2008, but had to dig deep into the memory banks to remember the W’s and the L’s and eventually had to rely on the power of the internet to dig up results.

CCCHS vs AHS (Coach P. Lane Era)

2000- Win
2001- Win
2002 – Win 26-7 (Thanks, Coach K. Unruh)
2003 – Loss
2004 – Win 30-22
2005 – Loss 16-6
2006 – Win 41-21
2007 – Win 28-10
2008 – Loss 13-12

What struck me as an unexpected surprise during this walk down memory lane? The flood storm of people and memories from those years instead of the W’s and the L’s which seemed so vitally important at the time. I mostly remembered the kids and the fine people I coached with and against. The stadiums and smells of concession stands and locker rooms. The bus rides and the pit stops on the road to distant games. I remembered lining up for pregame on 9-14-2001 at Piper High School in Kansas City for a moment of silence and a listening of our national anthem with tears streaming down our faces. The extended football family tragedies and the injuries which almost shattered your heart. Above all else, I remembered how much fun we had playing this great game of football.
I will miss this year’s game to attend a retirement party for a co-worker of 24 years; a priority now which wouldn’t have been just a mere few years ago. But, there is one thing I’d like to pass on to the young men playing on our home field and those playing on the thousands of sports fields across the country Friday night.
Gentlemen, it is important to learn how to put the requisite work and effort in order to try and win a game. It is not easy. It is important to work together as a true team, every man doing his job on every play. Never forget, though, the memory of the W’s and the L’s will fade into oblivion, it is inevitable. But,  you will never forget the teammates who stand next to you night after night at practice and line up toe to toe with you under those wonderful Friday night lights. You will never forget the blood, the sweat and the tears sacrificed in becoming the best individual and the best team you can be.

Good luck and good health.

Play hard and have fun.

Every man, every play

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The Wingbuster Story Finale: Shut ‘Em Down Boys!

The planning is done, the presentation is done, the preparation is about as far as we can take it and now we’ve run out of time. It’s time to take it to the field.

I could never sleep much the week before playing the double wing offense. Around Thursday night and all day Friday, it was tough to even eat. I’d worry about everything. Did our kids know their jobs? Were they physically, mentally and emotionally ready for how tough this game is going to be? Then the litany of “What if’s”. What if they come out in some funky new offense? What if they spread it out? What if they break tendencies? What if, what if, what if…

But the biggest one, what if the Wingbuster doesn’t work first time and our kids lose confidence? That’s is the question that bugged me the most. If it didn’t work, I would have totally let the boys down. And letting the boys down was always the fear which drove me to go the extra mile as a coach.

So it’s game time. I honestly cannot tell you one detail of any of the days we played Rock Creek. Too nervous, too many different brainwaves fighting in my head. My head is about ready to explode, then Rock Creek lines up for their first offensive play.

Here is a clip on the Toss play from my final presentation of the Wingbuster. It will give you and idea of how dangerous the play can be, followed by how the Wingbuster performs. The bad defensive examples are Rock Creek (Black) vs. Royal Valley (White). The good defensive examples are Rock Creek (Gray) vs. The Tiger Wingbuster (Black).

I can’t tell the emotion felt when we made the Wingbuster work like this. I don’t have the video from the first time we played them in 2004, but the first play was just like the second good defense clip above. Here we were, coming off an 0-9 season, playing this powerhouse of a team, pressure is cranked to MAX and we just knock the living $h!t out of them on the first play. I seriously could have cried right there on the sidelines.

Thanks to all the coaches who I begged, borrowed and copied from to design the Wingbuster. Thanks to my fellow Tiger coaches for holding the line and teaching the skills and duties at such a high level. Finally, a bubba-sized THANK YOU to all the Tiger Wingbuster players, from the superstars, to the role players, to the substitutes and especially to the Black Dog scout team players. Without your belief in the system and without your dedication to learning and performing the system we would have failed. Your tremendous level of individual and team pride would not accept defeat, no matter how difficult the challenge.

The Wingbuster: Every man do their job on every play.

Tiger Football.

EVERY MAN, EVERY PLAY

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The Wingbuster Story: Part 3

So, the research is done and the planning is done, now it’s time to go to work. It is time to try and convince 60 young men that if they pay attention, if they listen, if they work their tails off and if they stick together as one, they can beat this challenge.

But, they are teenage boys.  So, I know we have to sell this thing to the kids to get them to buy in hook, line and sinker. For this I turn to the expertise of Coach Paul Lane. Up to this point in my football coaching career, I went from an idiot with a football strength and conditioning book to a football coach who, under the tutelage of Coach Lane, could now walk and chew gum at the same time. One thing I learned from him on getting the boys to buy in to something is to come up with a cool name. I thought and thought of names. The Mustang? No, not the right ring to it. Dam the Double Wing? Nope, too hokey.  Bust-A-Wing? No, too 80’s break dance. Wing Stopper? Not bad, but Wing Stopper needed go talk to the 80’s break dance name. Bust-A-Wing Stopper? Hey, that’s closer. Wing…wing…wing…WINGBUSTER! Houston, we had a name! And a good name it was, too. The kids bought into it, the coaches bought into it. Now time to go to work.

Prep Week

Monday – Show team a video mash up of the double wing running over us in the past. Let the kids see the formation and see the basic offensive plays run at their very best. I wanted the video to scare them; use it to get their attention. I gave a short powerpoint on the WingBuster to introduced everyone’s alignment and assignment, then I talked animatedly about how we were going to shut this offense down. After the presentation, we went out for practice where the focus was on defending the Toss, the basic play in the double wing offense.

Tuesday – The focus was on teaching and getting repetitions on the proper physical techniques at each position. D-Line driving through blocker’s thigh pad to make a pile of humanity, D-Ends attacking a spot 1.5 yards behind offensive tackle, inside linebackers reading wing motion and being a wrecking ball to fill hole, the outside linebackers reading their wing and sifting and the deep corners reading their TE window then reacting to pass or run. The main plays we worked on Tuesday were the counter plays off the Toss, the Reverse and the Spin.

Wednesday – More repetitions on technique. Talk about oddball motions, flat motion for Buck Sweep; quick, long motion for fullback runs and play action passes.  More full speed team reps against scout team offense than technique reps.

Thursday – Review all plays in scout script. Hold back on contact, but try to keep full speed reaction repetitions against scout offense. Talk and ask questions and yell and scream and threaten to get everyone  focused on our EVERY MAN DOING THEIR JOB EVERY PLAY philosophy.

Check back for Part 4 finale, the Friday under the lights experience and my absolute coach-love for those underclassmen scout team offensive players, the true heroes of the success of the Wingbuster defense.

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The Wingbuster Story: Part One

The Wingbuster. I imagine when the approximately 300 or so former Tiger football players from that era in Clay County, KS hear those two words, it brings a sly smile to their faces. The Wingbuster was a football defense we packaged and the kids bought into in order to stop one of the most dangerous football offenses we faced, the Double Wing. This Double Wing offense run to perfection by an area school, Rock Creek High School.

The Wingbuster was so big, such an obsession for me, it will take a series of blog posts to try and give it justice. I probably spent a solid six months of my life researching, scouting, designing, presenting and thinking about this defense.

To understand the Wingbuster, one must first understand the motivation behind the obsession. Perhaps we should start with a one little detail about me;  I don’t like to lose. Period. Fear of losing is a great motivator. Do the work, give it your very best effort whether player or coach. Do everything you can within the limits of the rules to win. It is an excellent driving force.

I like Rock Creek High School. I really respect their head coach, Mike Beam, his coaching staff and the way they go about their business. But that offense, that stinking off-the-wall, need-at-least-a-week to prepare offense drove me crazy. The first four years I coached, we played Rock Creek only in freshman and JV football. Without the focus and preparations of the varsity program on preparing for freshman and JV games, we literally got the bejesus kicked out of us by Rock Creek four years in a row. We, the coaches or the players, had no clue how to defend the Double Wing and the Creek rolled over us for embarrassing losses.

In 2003, we went 0-9 in varsity football. I never, ever wish a goose-egg season on anyone. It is miserable for kids, coaches, families and fans. The last JV game of the 2003 season happened to be a road game at Rock Creek.  Our JV kids were starting to get things together and finished over .500 that season, but true to form, we got steamrolled that day against the Mustangs.

The week prior, in the biannual state scheduling meeting, guess who we draw for the home opener in the 2004 season–yep, Rock Creek. So, we are opening the varsity season playing a team that humiliates us on a regular basis, at home where there is no tune-up road game to work the kinks out, and, perhaps the worst thing, we were coming off a deflating 0-9 season. Crap!

But something happened that JV game day; something that lit a fire in me to do whatever I could not to allow us another ass-whipping at their hands in the future. Coach Wallace and myself were standing outside the visitors locker room waiting for our JV kids to dress out, when Rock Creek’s athletic director comes over and starts up a conversation. He happens to mention that, at the scheduling meeting the previous week, he gave Coach Beam the choice of opening up with us or another area school. The AD tells us, “Coach said to pick Clay Center because we always beat them and they’re way down.” Game on, brother.

I still burn inside when I think about that day. That hurt. That hit the pride hard. I knew right then and there we needed to do whatever we needed to do from November to August to win that game. So I went to work.

Next time- The research and the basics of the Wingbuster.

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