When Osbourn decided to switch from the single-wing offense to a spread attack, Eagles Coach Steve Schultze consulted with Manassas Park Coach Jeff Lloyd, whose team runs the spread.
Now, with the Cougars set to face single-wing team Giles in the Virginia A Division 2 championship Saturday, Lloyd planned to contact Schultze to get some pointers on defending the single wing, an offense that Manassas Park has not encountered in Lloyd's eight seasons as coach.
Schultze "is on my list to call today," Lloyd said earlier in the week.
Giles has run the single wing for at least 28 years, the tenure of Spartans Coach Steve Ragsdale, whose father, Harry, used that offense when he coached at Narrows, a neighboring school in southwestern Virginia. The field at Narrows is named after the elder Ragsdale.
The single wing entails a player in the backfield taking a direct snap from center, shotgun style, only the ball could go to any number of players. There are many variations, and as far as Lloyd is concerned, Giles seems to run all of them, and run them well. It is easy to be fooled by which player has the ball and which way he might be headed.
"The hardest thing is to teach kids to read keys and to not try to find the football because when you try to find it you won't find it," Lloyd said. "It's hard to teach kids to trust their keys. What we can't allow is for Giles to play defense by playing offense by keeping the ball for long periods."
Manassas Park defensive coordinator Joe McElfish has coached for more than 30 years and has not encountered a team that runs the single wing.
"It will be [an offense] that we're not going to be able to simulate in practice very well," McElfish said. "It's not like we can run a team against our first defense and say, okay, this is how we stop it. Maybe a lot of half-speed stuff to make sure we're keying the right people. That will be the challenge for this week."
On the Surface
Manassas Park planned to practice two days this week at old Redskin Park in Herndon to better prepare for the artificial surface they will play on Saturday at James Madison University in Harrisonburg.
The Cougars did the same thing last year in the week leading up to their championship win over Powell Valley (the team that knocked out Giles in the state semifinals in 2004).
"It was very important because it's a very different surface" at JMU, Lloyd said. "It's a quick surface but also a very sticky surface. If you don't pick your feet up, it can put you on the ground real quick. But it's a surface that plays well for us, especially offensively."
Giles High School, in Pearisburg, is located about 30 miles west of Blacksburg, so the Spartans rarely play teams from this area. But they did face Loudoun County school Park View in the 1980 AA state championship.
That Park View team included future Notre Dame and NFL player Allen Pinkett. In that game, Pinkett scored all 32 of his team's points -- an AA state record that still stands -- but Giles scored 33.
The Spartans returned just two offensive starters this fall but have ridden their single wing to yet another playoff appearance. Giles has reached the postseason 11 times since 1992 -- including winning the school's second state title in 1993.
"Our offense is unique and different, but we don't look at it as being anything fancy," Ragsdale said. "We think of ourselves as blue-collar type of kids. That's the type of community we are. We just think in terms of trying to play that way."
Ragsdale said his teams have never had a Division I signee, but senior tailback-defensive back Ricky Cook has received some interest for both football and baseball. His sister, Brittany, is a redshirt freshman on the Virginia Tech women's basketball team.
Giles got out to quick leads in its past two playoff games, surging ahead of Haysi and George Wythe by three touchdowns early in the second quarter.
The Spartans' only loss was in the fourth game to William Campbell, which will play Saturday in the Division 1 state championship.
In the past 25 years, Giles has played against Pinkett and Powell Valley's Jones brothers, Julius and Thomas, who now suit up for the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears, respectively.
Ragsdale is similarly impressed with Manassas Park senior quarterback Jay Terrell.
"He looks exceptional to me," Ragsdale said. "I don't think I've ever seen a kid we're going to face who looks as elusive as this kid is."
Lloyd was particularly pleased with Terrell's performance in the state semifinal win over Washington & Lee because the quarterback committed no turnovers, which has been a problem at times this season.
"I told him after the game Saturday that I was most proud of nothing he did running or throwing but how he managed the game and took care of the football," Lloyd said. "I really stressed to him before the game that he didn't have to win the game by himself."
Repeat After Them?
Ever since they won the state title last season, the Cougars have heard that they could not repeat. Not with quarterback Zach Terrell and receivers A.C. Fitchett and Joe Greene, among others, gone.
So far, the 13-0 record has them on track to prove otherwise.
"I'd really like this group to win the state finals, because they hear a lot that the only reason they won last year was because of the skill kids," Lloyd said. "It would be nice for this group to go out on top."