Panthers ready to wing it

Published 9:23 pm Monday, August 1, 2011

Northside’s William LaBarge (center) bench presses as teammates look on Monday during the Panthers’ weightlifting session at Northside High School. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

YEATESVILLE – It’s back to the future at Northside as head coach Keith Boyd has officially scrapped his spread attack in favor of the wing-T, the system he participated in when he was coming up as a player and coach.
The change began to take place last year when he installed the wing-T with four weeks left in the regular season. The team finished the year 3-8, but the coach liked what he saw enough to stick with it.
Boyd, who is heading into his sixth season at the helm of the Panthers, has made a name for himself as being one of the Four Rivers Conference’s more creative and risk-taking offensive coaches but has run a reverse on his philosophy.
Instead of snapping out of the shotgun with four wideouts trying to get down field at breakneck speed, Northside will now put its quarterback under center and place more emphasis on time of possession.
“We liked the ball control aspect of it, we were able to keep the ball out of people’s hands,” Boyd said. “We weren’t really flashy anymore but we were just grinding out three or four yards a clip. When we stayed away from penalties and fumbles we did ok.”
Though the wing-T will be its base offense, Northside will still have a few tricks in its playbook.
“One thing about it is we didn’t go exclusively to the wing, we still kept our shotgun package in and we’ll still have it in this year,” Boyd said. “It kind of gives us some flexibility. If people start loading up the box on us with eight or nine guys then we can also get out there and spread everybody out.”
Boyd said one of the bonuses of running the wing-T is that it allows him to camouflage his plays.
“It causes people problems because every play looks the same and we can run five or six different plays off one formation,” Boyd said. “That makes the defense have to really play assignment football because it’s hard for them to load it up and bring it.”
The Panthers began the 2011 season bringing back a mere five starters from its offensive and defensive units and is in full rebuilding mode, which is made even harder by the fact that only approximately 30 athletes showed up for practice on Monday.
“Our school is getting smaller and it’s affecting everybody at school,” Boyd said. “Our class sizes are down … With people transferring and some people falling to the wayside with grades it’s going to affect your numbers. We’re not a school of 800 were a school of 400.”
Boyd’s said the roster size may be small, but the players’ hearts are big.
“That’s one thing about this group: we’re going to be small in numbers, our size is going to be small, we might not be real, real fast but they have good character,” Boyd said. “The kids are good, they hustle and they are a pleasure to coach.”