By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
PEARISBURG, Va. —
The single wing is alive and well at Giles.
That is good news for the Spartans, not so good for anyone else.
“It is a very exciting offense,” Giles senior Brad Lipes said. “A lot of people love watching it. It helps us out because it confuses the other team and no one knows where it is going.”
‘It’ is the football. Trying to find the football is the difference between slowing down the Spartans or having to chase their speedy backs down from behind.
“That is one thing that is an advantage for us,” Lipes said. “They can’t set up a scrimmage offense like the way we run it so I know it is hard for them to practice when we are coming up to play them.”
Giles has ridden the single wing offense to plenty of success in Pearisburg, including three state championships, with the last coming in 2005.
While it might be a nightmare to defend, the Spartans wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It is fun, just blocking and getting to hit,” Giles senior Cody Rhodes said. “We need to get head to head and start hitting, contact. Getting after it, it is fun...
“We just need to block, get our blocking together. We have got the speed, we just have to come together as a team and play hard.”
In this era of spread offenses and wide-open passing attacks, the quarterback of the Spartans isn’t a quarterback at all.
“It seems like our center is going to be like the quarterback of our team,” said Rhodes, whose Spartans will incorporate Jonathan Jennelle, Brett Suroski or Zane Martin in what might be the most important position for the single wing offense. “He is the one that starts with the ball and wherever he puts it, that is where it is going basically.”
No wonder Giles can be so hard to prepare for, when the center actually has the task of snapping the ball to a halfback, wingback or blocking back, and then those players can either run with the ball or hand it off to a teammate, or actually throw the ball on a rare occasion.
“I always tell these kids, when it comes to pinpointing those snaps and stuff, you are a lot like our quarterback,” Giles head coach Jeff Williams said. “We have got to make sure we have got the snap perfect for our offense to click and a lot of times that is where it starts, it starts with them.”
It is deception that leads can lead big plays, such as last season when the Giles tailback duo of Ian Mann and Brett Whitlow combined to gain more than 3,000 yards. While Mann has graduated, Whitlow is back, having rushed for 1,200 of those yards last year. Tyler Perdue and Dusty Boggess also return to a talented backfield with plenty of options.
“I think Brett will have a better year this year, but we do have quite a few backs where we can have a good rotation,” Lipes said. “The offensive line will make the holes, if they will hit them we will be all right.”
Blocking is what makes the single wing go, and that is what Williams has his Spartans working on hardest in the preseason.
“We just have got to get better at blocking,” Williams said. “Right now that is our point of emphasis is getting better at blocking and that is the key to any offense is blocking, that is what we are working on right now.”
Giles will get plenty of practice with a pair of preseason scrimmages against physical teams, including this morning at Hidden Valley, and next Friday at Pulaski County.
“It is a big thing we have got to work on, but I think it will come with time,” said the 5-foot-9, 255-pound Lipes. “We will get this scrimmage (at Hidden Valley) and I think it will show a lot of people what needs to happen and I think next week we will get going and things will change and we will be good to go...
“We have got to have good leadership, a lot of people step up and lead and get more physical and get rougher in practice.”
Giles preaches the single wing from youth league to high school, and Lipes figures that is why the offense is so potent. It started under the tutelage of legendary head coach Stephen Ragsdale, and won’t be going away anytime soon, not with much of the current coaching staff having grown up in the same system.
“You play with the same people all the time, from year to year you know what is going on,” Lipes said. “It is good knowing someone is going to get their job done and you know you can get your job done and everything will be all right.”
Giles, which finished 10-2 last year, has high expectations for another big season, with improvement needed in blocking and on defense, especially as the schedule stretches toward the postseason.
“We are going to work hard on (defense),” said Lipes, whose Spartans open with bigger schools in Blacksburg and Christiansburg. “We are just going to go really hard and get better and get this team rolling down the stretch.”
“I want to do good this year,” added the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Rhodes. “I feel like we have a lot we can accomplish with what we have got. We just have to come out with us being as a team and come together and play hard.”
Lipes and Rhodes are rare three-year starters at Giles. They have won two Three Rivers District titles in a row, and hope to make it three.
“My expectations are high for this team,” Lipes said. “I plan for sure we want to win district. If we can win district that would be my third district championship, that is my number one goal and as far as going on after that, we will just take it as it goes.”
“I would love to do that again as a senior,” added Rhodes. “Three years in a row, that would be nice.”
—Contact Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org