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Comments on the When the Game Stands Tall

Posted by John Reed on

My wife and our two football coaching sons saw the movie When the Game Stands Tall on Saturday 8/23/14. That is based on, and inspired by, but not a documentary of, the De La Salle High School football team during the period when its head coach was Bob Ladouceur.

My middle son played a little football but never coached it with me as the oldest and youngest sons did. Also, my oldest played college tailback in the Ivy League. And my youngest was football equipment manager at the University of Arizona for five years—so he was a casual acquaintance and practice and game field colleague of sorts for players like Rob Gronkowski and Nick Foles.

And in addition to coaching youth and high school football for 16 seasons, I have written eight books about football coaching, two of which are used purchased by all levels of coaches up to the NFL and one of which is for freshman and junior varsity high school coaches. The others are for youth coaches.

Click on the book for more info or to order it

 

So my two sons and I watched the movie with a considerable knowledge base above and beyond the average lay movie goer with regard to football.

Furthermore, our house is 12 miles from De La Salle High School. The high schools where I coached and my sons played have been opponents of De La Salle many seasons. My oldest son attended the De La Salle summer football camp two years. Bob let me stand next to him for a week or two of his spring practices one year and I felt bad for his players because he spent so much time explaining to me what they were doing and why.

I coached many youth players who went to to play for De La Salle. One in particular, Kevin Simon, was named most outstanding player in the San Francisco Bay Area his senior year as both tailback and middle linebacker at De La Salle. He was a star linebacker at Tennessee and got drafted by the Redskins. (At the awards dinner at the end of his first season of football at age 8, I predicted to the audience that we would see him playing in the NFL one day.) As a result of injuries, he did not make the team. I talked to him on the phone at length a year or two ago. He was a Dallas Cowboys college scout at the time. I have known and talked to many other De La Salle players and parents over the years.

As a student of football, I did not only pay attention to what they were doing, I studied it from fairly close range for decades.

I used to try to attend at least one of their games per year—usually the NCS championship which they almost always won.

No state championship tournament

California is unique in America for not having a state football championship tournament. In all other states, if you go undefeated, it means you won state. In CA, where my son was on his high school’s (Miramonte in Orinda) first ever undefeated team, they were ranked second in the state by polls. Why is CA the only state without a championship tournament? Because it’s too big to have one. We have 38 million people—more than Canada. If you put every undefeated team in California into a tournament it would take so many rounds the playoffs would last longer than the season.

In recent years, they have created a sort of high school BCS tournament where the teams in the tournament are selected by polls, computer, whatever. De La Salle I believe has always made the state championship game since they did that and they win some and lose some.

The San Ramon Bears youth team

I coached youth football mainly at the San Ramon Bears. The movie suggested Bob lived in Concord where De La Salle is. He lives in San Ramon I’m pretty sure. Anyway, when his son Danny played youth football, he did so at the Bears. Bob would serve as a member of the chain gang at home games. I did not coach Danny. I was coaching a different age level team when he was there. I saw Coach Lad in the stands there twice during that period. Once, told him I was running the single wing on my team. He asked where I could possibly get the information needed to know how to do that (because the single wing was popular in the early part of the 20th century then virtually disappeared). I told him I had books and videos and had made friends with an old single wing coach who is an expert on it and one of the main historians about it. He seemed satisfied with that answer.

I also live in and coached in the same dozen or so San Francisco suburbs where De LA Salle is a frequent topic of conversation. I have heard many a non-De La Salle coach discuss De La Salle—usually through clenched teeth—behind closed doors. I have also heard players and their parents discuss De La Salle, usually claiming they cheat by recruiting—which is against the law and rules of the high school governing body.

I once won “golden pen” for the best letter of the week to the editor in a local paper. They had published letters to the editor with the usual anti-De La Salle propaganda. They have an unfair advantage because they are Catholic and can recruit from a much bigger region than the public schools. They give scholarships to great football players. I refuted all that dopey nonsense point by point.

If all you needed to win 151 games in a row was to be a Catholic school, why is De La Salle the only school that ever did it? Why didn’t Ladouceur’s predecessor at De La Salle, Ed Hall, do it? Why is their need to serve a wider area than a typical public high school district because they are the only Catholic high school in the area a net advantage when it means the players in question have very long commutes at rush hour and have to pay $16,150 for tuition and text book rental? And during their first couple of years, they typically do not have driver’s licenses. If they are poor, they may have a license, but no car, in their last two years. They tend to be unable to hang around with their high school friends and teammates after school because they live so far away from them.

The typical answer to the latter is they give football players scholarships.

Actually, they have all students who get admitted and who can’t afford it an opportunity to apply for financial aid to some organization in Kansas City or some such. That organization is not told whether the applicant is an athlete or not. They do not know the name of the applicant or any other information not related to financial need. So they make the aid decisions blind. And reportedly, of the 80 to 100 kids on the three levels of football teams at De La Salle, only a handful of varsity players are on scholarship in any given season. In other words, the vast majority of the players who kicked your butt if you lost to them, were paying the $16,150 out of their own parents’ pockets.

They mispronounce ‘De La Salle’ in the movie

By the way, they mispronounce the name of the school in the movie, as do most locals in this area. During the credits at the end of the movie, Coach Ladouceur himself pronounces it correctly. The wrong pronunciation is “day lah sal. In Spanish, you pronounce de as “day.” And there are a whole lot of Spanish place names here in California. But De la Salle is French, not Spanish. The school is named after John Baptist De La Salle, a 17th century French priest and innovative educator. In French, de is pronounced as something between deh and duh. That’s how Ladouceur says it during the credits at the end of the movie.

The real, ‘documentary’ story of Coach Ladouceur

They do not give the full story of Coach Ladouceur in the movie. His friends call him Coach Lad. I am not one of his friends but I will call him Coach Lad in the rest of this article because I am tired of spelling out that whole name.

He was born in 1954 and graduated from Division I San Jose State University where he had an undistinguished career as a running back. His only coaching experience before becoming the head football coach at De La Salle was defensive backs assistant coach at Monte Vista High School in Danville.

Monte Vista is walking distance from my house. I was the head freshman coach there in 2003 and 2004. My oldest son was the head freshman coach there in 2005 and I was his defensive coordinator. Position coach jobs like Lad had there in 1978 are typically given to former players who just graduated from the school the previous year. His only other job after college was parole officer in Alameda County. Alameda County is adjacent to Contra Costa County which is where I and De La Salle are located. Alameda County’s main city is Oakland.

Lad became the head varsity coach at De La Salle in 1979 at age 25. My wife and I moved here in 1977 after I graduated from grad school. Unlike most public school teachers—who get a pay boost for advanced degrees—Lad has no education beyond SJSU. His main job at De La Salle is to teach religion.

De La Salle was created in 1965. It never had a winning football season under its former coach Ed Hall, who has been coaching in the area all along and is now at Diablo Valley Community College where many of our local schools including De La Salle play some of their big games because it has more seats.

Lad never had a losing season. His overall record entirely at De La Salle is 399-25-3. That is the highest winning percentage in football at any level in the history of the universe for coaches who coached at least 200 games. The 151-game win streak which is the focus of much of the movie is the current record and more than double the prior record of 72. But that was not their only streak. The 151-game winning season started after they lost to Pittsburgh High in the 1991 NCS championship game. Amani Toomer, later of the New York Giants, was a receiver at De La Salle that year. I think Lad said they lost because they got away from what they did best that season—the Houston Veer triple option. I surmise because they felt pressure to make use of Toomer. They were famous for rarely passing the ball, and for a while it seemed their only pass was an option halfback fade pass to the right side. I remember they threw that pass five or six times in one game, all but one for TDs. The other was a long gain. No incompletions or interceptions! Comical. They only had one pass but boy did they have that pass!

Herc Pardi was the head coach at Pittsburgh in 1991. When I was getting ready to do a coaching clinic on my book Football Clock Management, Pardi came to the dress rehearsal at my home. He was at Clayton Valley High School when they tied De Las Salle during the season depicted in the movie (which falsely depicts that game as a De La Salle loss.)

Going into the Pittsburgh game that they lost, De La Salle had a 34-game win streak going. Basically, it’s better to just list their losses by season to understand how great they have been under Coach Lad (and his unsung partner Terry Eidson):

From 1979 to 81, they were a pretty good team that always had a winning season

In 1982, they were undefeated.

!n 1983, they lost only the NCS championship game to Miramonte, the school where my son starred from 1995 to 1998. The Miramonte head coach in 1983 and when my son played there was Floyd Burnsed. I coached at Miramonte on the JV in 1994 and on the varsity in 1995.

In 1984, they lost one game by one point.

In 1985 and 1986, they were undefeated

In 1987, they lost the NCS championship by one point to Monte Vista where I coached from 2003 to 2005 and where my youngest son played and graduated.

In 1988, they were undefeated.

In 1989, they lost two early season games by a combined total of three points.

In 1990, they were undefeated.

In 1991, the only game they lost was the aforementioned NCS championship to Pittsburgh High. The 151-win streak began after that game.

Over time, DLS went from playing their faith and student-body-size peers, like the Catholic league and the 1,000-boys in the student body level to playing in the super heavy-weight level. Basically, they were too good a team for everybody, even the schools that had twice as many boys in their student body and more players who went on to play in college. There is a scene in the movie, which probably din’t happen per se but did happen in the form of quiet letters and phone calls. The other local coaches claimed DLS should be playing the Niners, not their high school teams. Terry Eidson jumps up and says, “Okay. From now on we’ll just play our five league games and fill the rest of our schedule with teams from around the U.S., like Long Beach Poly.” Then the local coaches say, “You’re going to play Long Beach Poly!? Good luck with that.”

I doubt the yelling exchange at a meeting took place as shown in the movie, but DLS did eventually reach a status—around when I was at Monte Vista, where they played in the strongest East Bay league—our East Bay Athletic League—even though the DLS student body was too small for that level. But they would not be eligible for the league championship. That would go to the second best team ???? after perennially undefeated DLS. DLS would still compete for—and always win—the NCS regional championship. They played the whole EBAL—seven games as I recall—not just five of its teams. Then they would fill the rest of their schedule with teams in Texas, Hawaii, NJ, OH, Southern California, Bellevue WA, and so on. Indeed, I wonder if the streak would ever have ended if they had not started playing the best teams in the US every year. DLS had to be almost the only high school team in the U.S. taking jets, rather than school buses, to go to many of their away games.

From 1992 through 2003, they never lost a game. In 1994, during that period, I was invited by Lad to observe his spring practices, which I did. When I arrived, I introduced myself and went to a spot about 40 feet away to be sure I was out of his way. He motioned for me to come stand beside him, which I did. He explained everything he was doing and took my pad and drew up all his plays on it. I still have those diagrams. I also have the actual Houston Veer play book from the University of Houston. The two are identical.

2004 was the bad year. They started by losing to Bellevue, WA. Then the lost two more games and tied two games—unheard of for DLS since the 1970s. But they won their last seven games and the California state championship.

2005-2006: 21-game win streak

2007-2008: 15-game win streak

2009-2011: 27-game win streak

2012 was Lad’s last year as head coach. They went undefeated and won the state championship.

2013 was the first year of Justin Alumbaugh as head coach. They went undefeated but lost in the state championship game.

Their 150th win during the 151-game streak was over Monte Vista in 2003. I was the head freshman coach at Monte Vista that year. My oldest son Dan and I were on the sideline for the 150th DLS victory at DLS. Monte Vista played horribly, apparently intimidated and totally psyched out by being on the same field as DLS.

Terry Eidson coaching clinic

Lad had his heart attack several weeks after the 151st win. That is depicted accurately in the movie. In that spring of 2004, Dan and I attended a coaching clinic at Laney College given by DLS defensive and special teams coordinator Terry Eidson, which is well played by a more portly actor than Terry in the movie. I asked Terry how Lad was doing at that clinic. “Not well,” he said. Apparently at that time Lad was not making good progress, but he must have done so since because he was back to coaching that summer. And, as far as I know, he has had no heart episodes in the eleven years since then.

At that clinic, Eidson spoke about defense and used as his training film their 150th victory over Monte Vista.

After the clinic I said to him, “Jeez, Terry, could you maybe use another one of your games when you have two Monte Vista coaches in your audience.” He said it just happened to be one of their better games.

His main point in that clinic using that film was that it looked like his linebackers were constantly blitzing right into the play by sheer luck. In fact, he said he called almost no blitzes during that game. Rather, the Monte Vista offense was tipping off its plays by the formations and first steps of the offensive backfield at the beginning of each play. The DLS linebackers were keying on those first steps and blasting off to the spot where they knew the play would be going.

Terry added that most high school teams show the film of the upcoming opponent to their players once. At DLS, they show it once with coach discussion, then again every day at lunch all that week. I want to make two comments about that as a coach and coaching-book author.

Number one, that only works if the opponent tips off his plays with unique play formations or unique combinations of formations plus first steps of the offensive backfield. In my various books, I have emphatically said that you must never have any one-play formations or two-play formations. I said that such formations are scouting bonanzas to your opponent.

All through my coaching career, I would pounce on those and teach them to my players. In those games, we looked like DLS—crudely speaking. For example, the Benicia, CA youth team would run out of their slot left formation (tight end on their left and split end and slot back on their right) either sweep right with a fake boot back the other way by the QB or fake sweep right and a real boot by the QB back to the left. I taught my defensive end on our left to assume a sweep coming at him and tee off toward that play as soon as the ball was snapped and I taught my right defensive end to assume the QB was carrying the ball on a bootleg and always tee off on him when he saw that formation. We went over that again and again all week and in the pre-game warm-ups.

In the actual game, we obliterated them in general but especially when they ran that formation. We would stop the sweep for about a three- or four-yard loss and the boot for about a ten-yard loss. Toward the end of the game, we were so far ahead and I was so offended as a coach by the stupidity of what they were doing that I just yelled out the assignments in the clear rather than in code. “Shane, boot at you! Chris, sweep at you!”

Livermore code talk

In one of the final games of my coaching career, the Monte Vista freshmen beat Livermore’s freshmen by something like 34-6. They were a much better team athletically. And they ended our only QB’s career, I repeat, career, during the second quarter with a huge hit. Because our other QB—Zach Ertz, who is now a tight end with the Philadelphia Eagles—had been moved up to JV, we prepared a couple of receivers to be back-up QBs. In spite of our being athletically much inferior, and losing our QB in the second quarter, we won by a huge margin. Why? ALL of their plays were one-formation or two-formation plays. And we had a code is which would could speak to the players on the field and they could speak to each other in essentially a foreign language.

Stated in plain English, I and our middle linebacker field captain would see, for example, that they were in offset I right. That meant they were either running 26 power (off tackle to the right with a lead blocker) or 31 trap (fake off tackle to the right but with a give to the fullback who took one jab step to the right then ran inside a trap block by the right guard.)

My right defensive tackle, who later played college football (rare to have such a player on a freshman team) was assigned to stop the trap. Our stud outside linebacker who was also a tight end and back-up QB was assigned to blast the outside jersey number of the fullback lead blocker and keep his outside arm and leg free to stop the bounce out. So I and the MLB would see the formation and yell out, in code, “Offset I right! That means either 31 trap or 26 power. Stuff it!” So those two defenders and the entire rest of the time teed off on those two plays. I wrote an article about football codes that was published in Scholastic Coach magazine, and used that game as the example.

What I learned from Terry at that clinic is that by looking not only at the formation but also the first step of the offense, you could find formation-and-first-step tendencies against teams whose coaches were smart enough to avoid formation-only tendencies. So I added a first-step weekly defense drill based on the scout video of the upcoming opponent to my coaching book that I wrote after that: Coaching Freshmen & Junior Varsity High School Football.

When I told our varsity head coach how DLS had read his formation tendencies and first-step tendencies, he angrily denied it. When I persisted explaining that Terry used the video of the game to prove it, he still said it wasn’t true.

The second point I want to make about this is DLS’s practice of watching upcoming opponent video six times instead of once is a strength, but only if the opponent lets it be. My contrarian approach also advocates ju jitsu—using the opponent’s strengths against him. DLS’s propensity to explode toward a particular point based on six days of video looking at formation-and-first-step tendencies means you can turn that strength into a severe weakness by making your formations-and-first-steps false keys just for the DLS game. In other words, you would self-scout to identify your formation-and-first-step tendencies, then you would create new plays that would take the ball away from where those DLS defenders would be teeing off to.

After looking like fools in the beginning of the first quarter, the DLS defenders would lose faith in those keys they had been practicing all week. So what will they have to do differently? They will have to wait to either find new keys or just stand still until they can figure out where the ball is really going. Sports fans, if you can get the mighty DLS defense to stand still for two or there seconds at the beginning of your offensive plays, you have a good chance to move the ball.

95% character building?

The third point I want to make is the movie makes it look like the DLS coaches are about 95% about building character and that their winning percentage is just a byproduct of that character building. And by implication, the rest of us coaches are dopey boobs who think coaching is about blocking and tackling and don’t realize that if we just focused on building character, we could beat DLS’s saintly players.

BUUUUULLSHIT!

First off, DLS can’t hold a candle to my undergraduate alma mater when it comes to building character: West Point. West Point is 24-7, 325 days a year. DLS is a mere day school with severe restrictions on football coach contact with players even during the season. And how’s all that character building working out for West Point in football? West Point holds the record for the most losses in a season by a college team: 0-13.

Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden was once criticized for his players’ lack of discipline—inner-city showing off after plays. He responded, “If that kind of discipline won football games, Army would win the national championship every year.”

Army did win the national championship in 1944, 1945, and 1946 only—World War II years. Paradoxically, they almost certainly won those years because they were one of only two teams in America whose players could not be drafted into the U.S. military. The other was Navy. Without that “cheating,” the saintly Army cadets never won a national championship.

The other thing I want to point out with this formation-and-first-step tendency focus is Coach Lad and Coach Eidson are really, really, knowledgeable, excellent football coaches. Being saintly coaches with saintly players is nice, but it also helps when you know what play is coming before the snap and when your offense runs a proven contrarian scheme that takes enormous numbers of practice reps to replicate [see below].

The end of the streak

The first game of DLs 2004 season was an away game at Bellevue, WA High School. Bellevue won 39-20, which is depicted in the movie. I had always said that I thought the streak would end with the first game of a season. Why? Because Lad is a great coach but coaching takes time. If you wanted to see a Lad-coached team back when he was coaching, I would have told you to go to the final playoff game, not the first game of the season, because it takes him time to turn them into a Lad-coached team. At the time of the first game, he has only coached some of them for weeks.

High reps Houston Veer triple-option offense

Lad’s approach is to use a high-reps offense strategy—the Houston Veer triple option—and reps take time. My book, The Contrarian Edge for Football Offense, says you gain a big advantage by using an unusual offense that takes a lot of reps to master. The reason is you can get those reps in spring football and pre-season practice and every week during the season plus over the multi-year careers of the players at your school. In contrast, your opponents have to try to recreate what you do on their scout team with only three days to practice it. F’get about it.

My Contrarian book also says to use an offense that your opponents never see except when you run it. Even better, run an offense that neither you opposing players nor coaching have ever seen—like my use of the single-wing offense. But here in the East Bay region, Lad’s Houston Veer triple option was sufficiently rare to give him a great advantage.

So let me stop right there and point out that one of the most important keys to Lad’s success since 1979 was his use of and mastery of the Houston Veer triple option. That is absolutely not mentioned at all in the movie and they only ran two option pitches in the whole movie. The rest of the movie looked like a typical, stupid, youth coach offense: lots of toss sweep right mixed in with some lead and dive plays. They also ran a hodge podge of pass plays that I can’t characterize except that there was a time when all DLS ran pass-wise was triple option halfback fade pass right.

Why did the movie not run the veer triple option? Probably for the same reason I just said above that how it gives you an advantage as a coach. The movie maker’s “expert” football consultants and actor-players could not master it in the amount of time they wanted to devote to it.

Get video of the real DLS team

If you are really interested in seeing a De La Salle team in action, find some video of them on the Internet. They also have a TV Network that broadcasts their games. But Lad was a mere varsity assistant starting in 2013. The head coach is now Justin Alumbaugh, a former player and assistant coach. They lost only the State championship game in Alumbaugh’s first season.

Offensive get off

Another thing they did not bother with football-wise in the movie is DLS’s famous, or notorious, offensive get off. They go down into a three-point stance simultaneously and then hike the ball, often, it seems before the required one second elapsed time between getting set and the snap. They get flagged for that occasionally, but it is quite distinct and was missing from the movie. Local coaches and opposing players are angry about the get off which they feel often or usually violates the rules. You would need a high-speed camera with a stop watch displayed in the picture to tell for sure. It frequently looks illegal to me. It is also another thing that it hard for opposing scout teams to replicate.

When I went DLS’s spring practice or when my son went to their summer camp, or bot, I saw their line coach of that time, Steve Alexakos in action. Former NFL lineman. Very high energy coach. I made a point of watching him coach in addition to watching Lad. Very impressive. He is part of the reason for the 151-game win streak.

A year later, when I was a coach on the Miramonte varsity, we went to a contact camp at San Jose State for a week. We took our JV and varsity players and we coaches and the players stayed in heh dorms there. At that time, 1995, Alexakos was the line coach at San Jose State. We ate meals with the coaches and spent all day and the evening with them. I also first met the Monte Vista head coach who later hired me at San Jose State that week where he was a youg receivers coach. I had a subsequent conversation with Lad and mentioned Alexakos move to San Jose State. Lad said, “Yeah, I really miss him and I haven’t yet been able to replace him so I am now our O line coach.” But apparently Lad had learned how to coach the line from Alexakos during his brief tenure at DLS.

Another salient fact about the DLS O linemen: they look quite different from other high school O linemen. They are somewhat tall and relatively slender, like high school tight ends, not fat like the typical high school line. So part of the reason DLS is almost almways outweighed on the line is they are a small school—1,000 boys—but another reason for that is they use athletes, not fat boys as linemen. Of course, a corollary to that is they don’t run a power-I offense or much drop back passing. With the triple option, the line has huge splits (gaps) before the snap and the linemen only need to preserve those holes, not create them.

Conditioning

DLS is famous for extreme conditioning demands. I am a skeptic on high school conditioning for football. We conditioning skeptics are a distinct minority, but I’m not the only one. Mike Leach now at Washington State is another I believe. Anyway, that’s for other articles and is discussed in my books.

Here I will just say that although DLS and others will say their extreme conditioning are key factors in their success, my position is I only think stamina is relevant. I try to achieve that with warp-speed practice with three plays per minute. That may sound slow to a layman, but it is a blistering tempo.

DLS does some of that but also a great deal of strength training.

For the record, my position is you need enough stamina to get through four quarters. Why not the more the better? Because running such Bataan Death March football programs drives good prospective players away from the football team and more than enough is, by definition, excessive conditioning. Also, these are growing boys. At the end of each of their bones is a growth plate. It can be permanently injured by overuse. The typical football coach mindset that “we won’t be outworked” is child endangerment.

With regard to strength training, it is invalid. For example, what is the analog to a bench press on the football field? Coaches would say it’s blocking and shedding blocks, Okay, then let’s do the bench press standing up and pushing horizontally, not lying on a bunch pushing straight upward. But, you say, you can’t get much force going horizontally when you are standing up.

Exactly.

If you want to do strength training for football, take a video of a game and identify each and every moment when any of the 22 players is using strength. Then create a weightlifting exercise that looks just like that video game moment.

I think what strength training really is in high school football is bullshitting the players into thinking they’re big, strong, intimidating muthas who are impressing girls with their handsomeness and impressing opposing payers with their machismo and strength. In other words, the benefits for high school football players of strength training is body-building whose purpose is impressing girls and boys with their physique. There is a saying in strength training that “curls are for girls” where curls refers to a bicep-developing exercise done with weight lifting. I think almost everything going on in a high school football team weight room is for impressing girls sexually and boys competitively.

Also, when Monte Vista played DLS AT DLS in 2002, where do you supposed DLS told our players to dress? In their football weight training room. Our coach thought that was a psychological technique for intimidating our players. I think DLS had their players’ best weight-lifting marks on the wall, typically better than most team’s. Apparently the MVHS coach felt it worked because the next year when we went back for that 150th DLS victory game, he told our players to get dressed in our locker room before getting on the bus and refused to go into the DLS weight room. He also used the bus and other outdoor areas at half time instead of the weight room. We still got slaughtered—48-13.

So maybe it works in a roundabout way, but again, Bataan Death March football programs drive some excellent players away.

The main issues regarding physical training in football are cardiovascular stamina, arm strength of passers, leg strength of kickers (but be very careful to guard against over-training of arms and legs), leg muscles used for running and shoving, finger strength for catching and holding onto ball.

Also, dehydration must not be confused with lack of weight-room strength. In hot, humid weather, you must hydrate your team.

Another issue is kids older than 16 often pull muscles and get cramps. Cramps were found through research to be caused by a shortage of salt in the body combined with an individual genetic weakness with regard to salt shortages. Many NCAA and NFL teams now have lots of salted pretzels lying around in their locker rooms to get more salt into their players. Muscle pulls are more mysterious.

In short, yes DLS has an extreme physical conditioning program. But I think its beneficial effects are purely psychological and aimed at deceitfully building the self-confidence of the players and intimidating opponents. I suspect some prospective DLS players chose another school or another sport to avoid the demands of the DLS conditioning.

One Great Game

There are two books about DLS football. When the Game Stands Tall by Neil Hayes is one. That is the book the movie was based on and named after. The other is One Great Game by Don Wallace. I suspect the movie used that book, too, to create the portion of the movie about that game. Wallace is a Southern California sports writer who, upon learning that DLS was going to play perennial power Long Beach Poly High School, figured he would watch each teams’ season approaching that game and write a book about it. Smart idea in retrospect. That turned out to be one of the greatest high school football games ever.

It was in the 2001 season, but Hollywood decided to put it into the 2004 season that the movie is about.

You ought to read that book if you have any interest in all this. Also, Neil Hayes was a sports writer in the DLS area; Wallace, in the Long Beach Poly area. I think it’s useful to see both perspectives, like Wallace’s shock when he drove up to DLS to see their campus. It’s a nothing burger.

Three DLS’s under Lad

My impression from some small distance from the DLS program is they went through three phases under Coach Lad:

1: no talent except at coach position (1979-1987)

2: phenomenal success attracts phenomenal athletes (1988-2003)

3: arrival of new DLS president/post-Lad heart attack (2004-present)

When I went to Lad’s spring practice in 1994, he told me they ran the triple option because it was the only way their weak athletes could get to the outside against their faster opponents. Not many years after that, DLS football players were finalists in the California state track championships in the 100 meters.

Here is a list of their football players who went on to the NFL—along with their approximate high school years:

Note that the oldest arrived five to seven years after Lad arrived at DLS. And the youngest graduated 10 years ago, approximately when DLS got a new president. I heard—won’t say from whom—that the new president then was displeased with the school being more known for football than academics. The bulk of the future NFL players were at DLS during Phase 2.

For those of you who do not know football, this is a phenomenal number of future NFL players to come out of one 1,200-student boys high school. I think Miramonte (1,200 students also but co-ed) had one or two during Coach Burnsed’s 20 or so years there. I managed to coach three future NFL players during my three years at Monte Visa freshman coach: Ryan Whalen; Roy Helu, Jr. (attended our freshman summer pre-season camp and his sister went to our school but he suddenly turned up as a student at our arch rival San Ramon Valley High School—I always figured because our varsity ran a one-back offense and our varsity head coach was obviously enamored of another running back classmate of Helu’s—indeed, the classmate was told he would be on JV, not freshman, for his freshman year during the camp), and Zach Ertz. But I know of no more NFLers at Monte Vista before I was there or since I left. Monte Vista was a much bigger school—something like 2,500 to 3,000 students.

Also, we have a bunch of Catholic elementary schools in this area, but only one Catholic high school—De La Salle. I heard that many parents of Catholic elementary school kids were shocked to see their kid get rejected by DLS. When they subsequently read and heard that DLS had a whole bunch of football stars who were from other areas that do have their own Catholic high schools, and had football players who are not even Catholic, they complained. They felt Catholic elementary and middle school grads from the DLS area should get preference over Catholic middle school grad from towns that do have Catholic high schools and especially over football players who are not Catholic.

In other words, the streak may have ended not with the events in the movie, but with the arrival of the new president. Less of a Hollywood story, huh?

I do not know if Lad’s heart attack contributed to the end of the streak, but it may have. That was in the movie.

I also got the impression being here locally and being semi in the grapevine/loop about such things than the seniors on the 2004 team had what I call negative leaders. Negative leaders are players who have leadership ability but who decide to use that ability to lead the team in a different direction than the coach wants them to go. They can be fatal to any coach. They must be quickly identified and even more quickly either straightened out or moved out.

There were some scenes in the movie supporting this theory. Some 2004 season seniors were less about the team and unwilling to share their emotions with the team in their famous “12-step rehab program”-like soul-searching sessions before game.

That’s not the way I heard it. The way I heard it is that the seniors that year were told again and again by everyone, “Don’t lose the streak,” and they resented all that pressure, indeed a seemingly growing pressure greater than their predecessors had to bear. And they decided losing a high school football game was not the world’s biggest deal for anyone else in America, so why should it be for them. And why should they have to bear this greater burden than their predecessors did, especially when the streak seemed to be benefiting all those predecessors and other DLS camp followers, not just them? Why should they do all the work of keeping the streak going when it benefited so many other people?

Logically, I have no great answer to those arguments. They are all true. Especially if there are whispers around the school and the program and the community that the new president is anti-football and sabotaging the team. And these are just teen-aged boys. You can only put so much pressure on teen-aged boys before they go into the fetal position.

I think winning 151 games is probably a different academic discipline than winning the 152nd through, say, the 200th. The curriculum for that would include how to deal with the academic people at the school resenting the success of the coaches in “building a good football program,” which is the way the coaches see it. Indeed, the Lad character in the movie said exactly that in a heated meeting with other local coaches from other schools. Also in the curriculum would be the resentment from Catholic parents about increasing numbers of star athletes from outside the area and the faith taking more spots in the school. And also would be how to prevent the successive groups of teenage boys from feeling more and more pressure and resenting so much burden being put on their young shoulders. I surmise that Lad and his fellow coaches did not expect these new problems and did not address them effectively. Again, not Hollywood movie material.

An ounce of recruiting is worth a pound of coaching

The results of a football team are sort of like the mathematical product of two numbers multiplied together. 2 X 4 = 8.

Think of the first number as the talent inherent in the team’s players, and I’m defining talent broadly to me what coaches call the “whole package:” size, speed, athletic ability, work ethic, coachability, academic skill, good citizenship, positive leadership ability, character.

The second number is the intelligence and diligence of the coaching staff. And I’m defining intelligence broadly to mean IQ, EQ, ability to motivate teenage boys, ability to set the example, knowledge of the subject (football coaching), willingness to put in the hours.

So you can win—get a large multiplication product—if the first number is large—player talent—or if the second number is large—coaching talent and diligence. Large times small equals larger and small times large equals larger.

What you saw during Lad’s Phase 2 was large times large which equaled The Streak.

Offers to coach college

Much is made in the movie of Lad’s receiving offers to coach in college, and his turning them down.

True, but before we canonize him for that, let’s consider a couple of generic considerations. By generic I mean I have no evidence whatsoever that Lad made that decision based on these generic considerations.

1. requirement that you be an excellent recruiter in college

2. greater probability of failing in college with the same coaching ability as in high school

Notwithstanding all the bullshit false accusations that Lad recruited at DLS, he never did. I coached youth athletes in the area. High school starts at age 14. If a high school recruits, they would recruit 12 and 13-year olds. I never heard of anyone I knew, or even second-handed, saying that Lad actually recruited a particular kid.

What he did at DLS for sure was attract them, during Phase 2. But so did Coach Burned, on a smaller scale, at Miramonte High School. Consistently good high school football coaches—public or private—attract good football players. Coaches known for producing successful quarterbacks attract prospective high school quarterbacks and stage fathers like the fictional composite Mr. Ryan in the movie.

One of the players Lad attracted was Joe Montana’s son, although he did not stay at DLS. It’s a triple-option team for God’s sake. (In a triple-option team, the QB frequently runs with the ball; and typically throws fewer passes than other kinds of QBs.) Joe was a drop-back QB.

So if Lad took the Stanford or any other coaching job, his success would depend primarily on his ability to recruit the best players to his school, a skill he had never had to have or had any experience in and in which he maybe would be found to have no ability. Although he is truly a great man and was obviously born to coach teenage boys in football, he is a rather strange man in terms of mundane social skills. There in some dialog along those lines in the movie spoken by the woman who plays his wife. I have spent some time in his company and he was fine, but on a half dozen other occasions, I ran into him around the area and he acted as if he was mad at me. I would mention it to an acquaintance, I and I would hear back that he was not mad at me at all. Then it would happen again.

After grad school, my boss’s boss and I passed each other on the sidewalk in San Francisco near our office. I had to interview with him to get hired. He was a Harvard MBA, like me and my wife, and his next job was CEO of a major bank. He dressed impeccably and was Mr. Smooth. He knew who I was.

I said “Hi” and his name. He ignored me. Later, I told my boss about it and said, “I guess he’s mad at me but I have no idea why.” My boss said, “No, he’s just like that. He does that to everybody. He can do okay in social situations if he can first psyche himself. But if you take him by surprise, his brain locks up.”

I expect there is a name for that. I don’t know what it is. And I’m not sure Lad has it. But he apparently has some brain pattern.

More travel as college coach

He said in the movie and in real life that he was a lousy husband and father—generally football widow and football orphan stuff I assume. That is, being super interested in his team and players and hardly interested in his wife and sons.

That, I expect, would not fly in the college athlete recruiting business. And I would think Lad would understand that and consider it when receiving college offers.

Also, he said in the movie, and at a Commonwealth Club lecture my wife and I heard him deliver that he needed to be a better husband and father. Coaching at the college level causes you to spend even less time with your wife and kids because both the recruiting and the away games involve far more travel than high school coaches do.

The ghost of Gerry Faust

Then there is also the ghost of Gerry Faust. Gerry Faust, a devout Roman Catholic, was the head coach of Archbishop Moeller [Catholic] High School in Cincinnati from 1962 to 1980 where he built the program from scratch. His record there was 178-23-2 with four national championships. (Lad won seven.) Is this story starting to sound familiar?

In 1981, Lad’s third year at DLS, Faust got the college offer—and took it. He became the head coach at Notre Dame University, a storied college program, in 1981. His record at Notre Dame was 30-26-1, not bad at a lot of schools, but fatal at Notre Dame in the early 1980s, just when Lad was starting to become “the next Gerry Faust” as I expect more than one person in Northern California observed. Lou Holtz succeeded Faust at Notre Dame and won a national championship there.

Faust next was head coach of Akron University where he went 43-53-3 and got fired after his final season in which he went 1-10. Since then, he has been a fund raiser for Akron.

At some point at Notre Dame or Akron I expect Faust had a “Dorothy” moment: “I don’t think we’re coaching high school players any more, Toto.” From super success to career disgrace—because he took the college offer.

So it may be that Lad was afraid he might fail at the college level, or maybe even convinced that he would fail.

In addition to being about recruiting more than coaching, it is typically said that high school coaches rely more on rah rah than college coaches and that college coaches rely more on rah rah than NFL coaches. Although that latter argument was the explanation of why Pete Carroll was not competent head coaching at the NFL level—at least until he won the Super Bowl earlier this year.

Another way to put it is coaches accomplish more with emotional rah rah appeals at the high school levels than at the college level and more at the college level than at the pro level.

If you look up football coach rah rah in the dictionary, there will be a picture of Lad next to the definition. True, he’s no locker room cheerleader, but his “12-step rehab program” AA-type meetings before games are about as emotional and spiritual as you can get.

Neil Hayes

I also know Neil Hayes. He was a sports writer for our local Contra Costa Times, the daily paper in the DLS area. I got to meet him because he came to my house to do a story about me and my book Football Clock Management. He had already written his book When the Game Stands Tall about DLS. We became more friendly than I do with most sports writers. In one conversation, he said Lad was making a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. My wife and I are members of that so we signed up to hear his speech. We got there early and Neil and Lad were sitting in the empty audience seats. The four of us had a nice conversation. That was right after the season that started with the streak-ending loss to Bellevue High School in Seattle.

“We got ambushed” Lad told me. I think he meant they surprised DLS with a whole new offense. When football teams play each other they exchange films of their most recent game or two with the opponent before the game. DLS prepared for the team they saw on those films. Bellevue made sure that preparation would screw DLS up for the actual game by changing what they did. Very much like what I said I would do above to make all the formation-and-first-step keys in the past films false keys.

Among other things, Bellevue used a 14-year-old freshman QB (In CA it’s illegal for a person who is not yet 16 to play in a varsity football game) and never threw a pass the entire game. (The movie has Bellevue throwing passes in that game. Didn’t happen.) Not throwing a single pass in an era when passing is now typically more than 505 of the plays is contrarian. And I tell about Bellevue doing that on five different pages in my Contrarian Offense book.

In that same conversation I commented to Lad that the Father of the Houston Veer Offense, Bill Yeoman, who is in the NCAA Hall of Fame, was a fellow West Point graduate (he’s class of 1950; me, 1968) and telephone friend of mine. And I said that the Houston Veer play book looked identical to the DLS play book that Lad had diagrammed for me when I attended his spring practice. Lad said that he also was friends with Yeoman and the Bill had been a great help in the early years of Lad’s being at DLS so that Lad knew exactly how to coach the veer. The original DLS play book was the Houston Veer play book and he had not modified it much since—option right, option left, counter option, trap option, option pass.

At one point, Lad told a newspaper reporter that he only had nine plays total. I called him once to confirm that was still the number because I was going to put it in one of my books. He did not return my call—but that doesn’t mean he’s mad at me I’m guessing???

Hayes told me he and Lad had become friends as a result of the book. Indeed, Hayes went to Lad’s house to watch the Super Bowl each year. I wondered what other coaches were there. “Nobody.”

“Nobody!? The greatest football coach of all time watches the Super Bowl with just a local high school sports writer?”

At the end of the movie, they show a photo of the real Lad and the real Terry Eidson captioned “been together as coaches and best friends for 30 years.” But not Super Bowl watchers?

Hayes, by the way, moved back to Chicago after the local paper here was bought out by a new owner. I have never talked to him since he got the movie deal.

Leadership

I think Lad is one of the greatest leaders in the U.S. But I hasten to add that refers to his ability to lead high school football players to consistently great performances. Whether he could do that even in another high school sport, I do not know. If you ran into him, say, on an Amtrak train in the club car and talked to him for a half hour, I expect you would come away totally unimpressed. He probably would fess up to being a Catholic high school religion teacher and football coach, but would not volunteer any other info. Absent your recognizing the same of the school if he mentioned it, or digging deeper into his teams success, you would probably talk about other stuff.

If I told you he was one of the greatest leaders in America afterward, you would think I was nuts. If I asked you to describe him, you would probably say he’s quiet, a man of few words, shy, and bit of a brooding mystery man. With regard to mystery, I do not mean mystery as in you can sense some great power or story behind the mystery mask. Lad is guarded and reticent, but gives off no hint of his greatness. This mystery would be average man mystery.

Another guy I think was one of the greatest leaders of our time is the late Steve Jobs. Neither Lad nor Jobs fit the central casting idea of a great leader. My undergraduate alma mater West Point fancies itself THE great leadership school. They might deny it when asked directly, but the feeling I had there as a cadet is if you said Bob Ladouceur and Steve Jobs were going to be among America’s greatest leaders, they would ask, “What class are they?” meaning what year did they graduate from West Point.

When you explained that neither went there, they would be skeptical that such “non-grads” could be great leaders then. How would Lad have fared at West Point if he had been a cadet? I’m not sure. First, it is a science, math, engineering school. I do not know if he would have been able to handle that. Which should beg the question of if he is the most successful football coach in the history of the universe, and is not able to master calculus and EE courses, why does West Point require its students to master those academic disciplines? I think the answer is to impress intellectuals, not to lead men in combat.

Would Lad have been able to handle the non-academic rigors of cadet life? Probably. When I stood next to him during his spring football practice in 1994, I thought his players acted very much like West Point cadets.

They think leaders should look like recruiting posters at West Point. Does Lad meet that standard? No. He’ a decent looking guy but not a recruiting poster model. You might think that one of the greatest leaders of our time would be the first Captain at West Point—the head cadet who leads the parades and meets ll the visiting dignitaries. Nope. If Lad had been a cadet, they would not have made him first captain because he is not movie star handsome enough. The actor who plays him in the movie, Jim Caviezel, is handsome enough to be a West Point first captain. But if Hollywood were forced to use the real Lad in a movie about West Point, he would probably be cast as some curmudgeonly enlisted man, not cadet, sergeant.

Might personality oddities have washed Lad out of West Point if he were a cadet? Maybe. Certainly Steve Jobs would have washed out of West Point for lack of “aptitude for the service.” That is their phrase for leadership ability. Lad’s habit of treating acquaintances as if he were mad a them might have gotten him kicked out. The guys who were forced out of West Point on “aptitude” had less egregious personality faults than that.

Would Lad have made a great platoon leader in Vietnam? I think not. For one thing, 1/12 of his team would leave and another 1/12 arrive every month. For another they Army has no film or numbered jeseys. What Lad does to a large extent is watch film of his own team to make it better and to watch film of opponents to spot their strengths and weaknesses and tendencies. We had none of that in Vietnam.

For another, Coach Lad has a goal in football. Win the game. In Vietnam, we had no goal—just hang around for a year so you can go home. The respect the players have for Lad stems in large part from his mastery of the Houston Veer offense. What, pray tell, is the comparable expertise a Vietnam platoon leader would need. Damned if I know and I spent four year at West Point, another year in ranger and jump sochool and other schoools, and a number of months as a platoon leader in Vietnam. Lad is undeniably a gerat leader, but I doubt anyone would notice in Vietnam because it was just a big hurry-up-and-wait SNAFU bureaucracy. Guys like Lad need to be where their results can be seen objectively.

My big point here is real leaders in the real world are not like the people selected by Hollywood or big organizations like the Army. Real leaders are like the best baseball players in Moneyball. Often misshapen, too short, overlooked.

If you want to find the real leaders, look at the results they achieve, not their appearance or demeanor. Based on standard “he‘s a leader”  impressions, neither Jobs nor Lad would be anointed as leaders by the committees who usually select leaders. Based on their performance, they were leadership stars of the highest order.

Perfectionist

I have often said that calling a good football coach a perfectionist is redundant. If you read books about the great coaches, as I have, you find again and again that they are perfectionists of the highest order.

I was astonished when I stood next to Lad at his spring practice. He would quietly correct any body part being about four or more inches away from where it should be. His starting QB then was Mike Bastianelli. He later was a receiver at USC. And he died in a spectacular one-car accident at age 29 in Southern California. He was the driver. (Terrence Kelly was not the only DLS star to die violently, early, and young. The Vontoure brothers also come to mind.)

Anyway, once Lad corrected Bastianelli for taking his first step out from under center on a triple option play to the right at 4:30 (135º) instead of 4 o’clock (120º), referring to an imaginary clock face underneath him. (I’m not sure which was right. I’m just trying to tell you the amount of precision he demanded.)

A few minutes later, he corrected Bastianelli for bending slightly forward at the waist on that same first step. He explained that the dive back was going to come charging past him very close so the QB had to keep his upper body straight up to avoid shoulder pads colliding during the mesh (blind hand-off or fake hand-off to the dive back).

Lad had a “do it right or do it over” policy with each of these corrections, not that he would use such nasty terminology, but that was the effect.

The first-string backfield ran each play again and again until it was perfect, then the second-string backfield did the same. They they would move onto the next play and repeat. This was done with a center and offensive backfield and two defenders who acted as dive and pitch keys. They had an alignment strip on the ground to mark where the linemen would be in a game.

The next day, we would start over and do it all again and the standard was always perfection before you moved onto the next play. It was all done in silence as if by mental telepathy. Lad would quietly make the corrections I noted above. But he would never say next play or what play. The players seemed to know. Nobody got bored or misbehaved, which 99.9% of all other football players would have in such a 45-minute drill.

He did not say one word about character in all the practices I attended. It was all perfect football play execution. Once again, Lad and Eidson are fantastic football coaches in the sense of Xs and Os, not all this other spiritual stuff. They are good at that, too, but make no mistake of thinking they win because of choirboy morality. I do not recall a single scene in the movie that depicted Lad’s perfectionism.

Oomph

Lad also does what I call oomph. All triple -option team coaches run a drill where two QBs get on two adjacent yards lines (five yards apart) and go from one side of the field to the other pitching the ball back and forth on the run. In one direction, they use their right hand; in the other, their left. But only Lad has the 151-game win streak. What’s the difference?

DLS requires ten round trips of that drill daily, and if the ball ever hits the ground, that round trip does not count as one of the ten.

Oomph. My book Succeeding book—the book I sell the most copies of—has a chapter on oomph. This DLS story is one of the examples I use in that book. The point of that chapter is the world is full of people who are doing the right thing but not succeeding. How so? They do not do the right thing hard enough or long enough.

First job

There is a funny exchange in Moneyball where Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane asks his geek statistician if this is his first job in baseball. “First job anywhere,” he answers.

Terry Eidson cracked me up once at another coaching clinic with a similar exchange. I asked in front of everybody. “What does DLS do differently that makes you so much more successful. It’s not your offensive and defensive schemes. Lots of teams run the veer and the 4-4.”

Eidson replied,

“I don’t know what we do differently from other teams because I never worked for any other team.”

“Are you saying DLS is your first football coaching job?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re the most successful defensive coordinator and special-teams coordinator in the history of the universe?”

He just reaffirmed that DLS was his first football coaching job.

Unbelievable! And Lad’s only other job was defensive backs coach for one year at Monte Vista. It’s scary to think how good they’d be if they had more extensive preparation.

I then followed up with my theory on what they did differently, talking about how I had watched Lad in that spring practice and he seemed to be a perfectionist’s perfectionist. Eidson said something along the lines of,

“Well, you got that right. At DLS, no one can leave the pratice field until the whole team is finished practice. Many’s the night when we finish on defense and go over to watch the offense, which Coach Lad coaches, finish. But when we arrive, we see that the offense is not getting some picayune thing right and we groan mentally, ‘Aw jeez! We’re gonna be here for another half hour.’ And we are. Lad’ll stay out there til midnight if he has to to get the play done right.”

Again, this is the main reason for the on-field success at DLS, not the character building. Yet they did not show a smidgeon of this in the movie.

Trap-play defense

Let me give you another example of how DLS does the same, but more effectively. We played Northgate one year when I was a varsity coach at Miramonte. They had an offensive play where the pulled both guards to the right. The play was a 22 counter. The tailback would take a jab step to his left at a 45º angle, then cut back to the right at a 90º angle going through the right center-geard hole.

The right offensive guard pulled to let the defensive tackle in front of him penetrate into the backfield if he was dumb enough to fall for it. Then the pulling left offensive guard would trap block out on the penetrating defensive tackle. I explained this to our left defensive tackle.

“If the offensive lineman in front of you pulls to your outside, that means there’s a trap play coming right at you. You must stop. Do NOT overpenetrate. Widen your feet, get low, and brace yourself for that trap blocker coming from the other side of the center. You must stay in the hole and make a pile using that pulling guard who is trying to block you. That’ll prevent the ball carrier from going through your hole.”

Then we practiced it to make sure he understood and would do it right. In the game, our defensive tackle penetrated so far into the backfield of the other team that the trap blocker who was assigned to block him ignored him and became a bonus lead blocker on the play.

At the end of that same season, I went to the Oakland Coliseum to see DLS play Pittsburgh for the NCS champioship. I sat in the end zone which is a better angle for us coaches. Guess what? Pittsburgh ran that same pulling both guards trap.

So how did the DLs defensive tackle handle it? He stopped after one step forward. Did NOT overpenetrate. He widened his feet, got low, and braced himself for that trap blocker coming from the other side of the center. He stayed in the hole and made a pile using that pulling guard who was trying to block him. That prevented the ball carrier from going through his hole.

So Eidson and I taught the exact same thing. But his DLS player did it and my Miramonte player ignored me. So did Eidson know more about defending that than I did? Nope. Did he know more about motivating his player to do it right than I did? Yes, or he had a better, more coachable player to work with.

The pre-game AA meeting

One DLS unique approach thing that was prominently in the movie was their pre-season and pre-game team meetings they have that remind me of the various 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous that rehab members with all sorts of emotional, confessional speeches.

That stuff is outside of my expertise, but it seems to work for DLS and I think it’s a big factor in their extraordinary success. I would caution other coaches that you have to be yourself and if this is not you, which is probable, forget about it.

Also, I note an irony in the movie. As they approach the fateful 2004 season, the Eidson character comments that the seniors share emotions with the group, but the juniors do not. Those juniors were the seniors for the 2004 season which began with the loss that ended the streak. Lad’s unique personality has an element of what some call being inacessible. Sort of he keeps his cards close to his vest personality-wise. So it is a bit ironic that he and Eidson, who is not like that, would instantly zoom in on a similar behavior by the 2003 juniors. To be sure, Lad shares his emotions at times. He did it with an audience of mostly strangers at the Commonwealth Club.

How DLS does it

So let me go back and summarize how I think DLS does it:

• excellent football technique taught

• perfection demanded in practice

• perfect performance achieved in games

• contrarian offensive scheme

• high-reps type of contrarian scheme

• watching film six times instead of one

• looking for not only formation and down-and-distance tendencies but also combinations of formations and first-step tendencies

• emotional, committing-to-each-other, weekly team meetings

• the excellent, athletic not fat, borderline illegal get-off, offensive line apparently created by early 1990s DLS O line coach Steve Alexakos

Oh, and you may wonder if I recommend the movie as entertainment? Absolutely! It was great! Reviews had lowered my expectations, but it was great. One said it was not Rudy. Yeah, it was—in an entertainment sense. They even had a Rudy-like character in the Long Beach Poly game scenes.

Be sure to stay and watch the ending credits. You will see and hear the real Coach Lad in them.

Caviezel overdoes Lad’s laconic personality in his portrayal. He sort of makes Lad monotonal. That’s not Lad. Caviezel botoxes Lad’s personality. Local coaches here in the East Bay would probably respond that Lad already botoxed his personality himself. True, but Caviezel botoxes it more. Make sure you see and hear the brief glimpses of the real Bob Ladouceur an the end of the film.

 


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