Varsity Letter: Offense's Creator Hasn't Had Success With It

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

According to his Web site, Leonardtown football coach Anthony Pratley is the "founder" of the pistol spread option offense. He has issued a five-DVD set that dissects the attack. He has written articles on the PSO for coaching publications. He gives clinics in Pittsburgh and Baltimore and elsewhere. He sells his playbook online.

His site ("Be a Part of the Revolution!" it urges) has paying members from more than 30 states and a few foreign countries. He blogs and tweets and podcasts about his offense. And at least two area teams have adopted the PSO in recent seasons.

But a funny thing has happened on the way to the football patent office: Pratley's team has not been successful with the PSO. In fact, the pistol, run out of the shotgun, has fired mostly blanks.

The Raiders (1-3) have been shut out seven times in 24 games and have scored seven points or fewer five other times during his tenure, now in its third year.

So Pratley the PSO guru is akin to the lawn and garden expert with an eyesore yard, the parenting guru with a minivan full of brats.

Pratley also happens to be a good sport. He can chuckle at the paradox of being such an authority on something that he has not yet been able to harness for his program's gain.

"It's the mystery of life," the coach said with a laugh. "Why?"

Well, there are a lot of reasons the Raiders haven't rolled up many points and maybe just as many indicators to suggest that they very well might in due time.

For one thing, it can be a long process to master a consolidation of the pistol, the spread and the option, with the conglomeration's motion and multiple formations and nuances. Precision is at a premium.

New kids, who don't know the PSO from the PTA, are coming into the program every year, but the offense is supposed to be flexible enough to play to a team's strengths. If the Raiders can get it down.

"X's and O's, it has an answer to everything," said Leonardtown linebackers coach Bruce Julian, who was part of the panel that interviewed prospective football coaches when Pratley, then coaching in Michigan, was hired in 2007. "But when you see it on the field, it's absolutely unforgiving for individual mistakes."

Another possible reason the offense has not taken root is that this is Leonardtown, traditionally one of the weaker football programs in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, if not the Washington area. When hired, Pratley was the fourth head coach in less than two years, and the team had lost 73 of its previous 80 games.


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