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Gap-Air-Mirror Defense for Youth Football reader success stories, Part 4


We worked in practice on the things you stressed below – linebackers attacking the LOS; and better execution on offense, especially the wing reverse – and came away with a 27- 0 dominating victory. The wing reverse went for 2 long TDs; and the defensive shutout was led by our linebackers who made numerous plays for negative yardage.

Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to my plea for help!! The kids (and the coaches) are now very excited to keep the roll going, and there’s a lot more faith in the systems.

Feel free to use me as a testimonial… J

Best regards,

Mark McDermott

Head Coach – Fountain Hills (AZ) Condors (Pop Warner Mighty-Mite level; 7-9 year olds.)

McDermott & Associates

9607 N. Copper Ridge Trail

Fountain Hills, AZ 85268


(480)837-7476 fax

Anyway, thanks for the advice. I used it successfully. Our opponents dressed 41 players to our 15. They were bigger and just as fast. But, we won the game 36 – 14.

Thanks again,

Kevin King

Curtis Baptist School


quote me one more time, The Ponca City Cardinals are now "STATE CHAMPIONS", and will play for the Super Series National Championship in their Age and Division, due to implementing your strategies.

Dave Tarver

PC Cardinals

Coach Reed,
I have bought and read four of your books now on coaching youth sports. Since i have started using your knowledge as a basis for my coaching philosophy I have had great success coaching football and baseball. We won the conference championship in football using the single wing. Coaches laughed at us , literally until we beat the socks off their team and then they tried to emulate us the next week.

You mentioned that you would like to quote me about our success. Please do, I'm known as a John T Reed disciple around here, I get laughed at about that also. But if you want some good information about our success let me fill ya in.

My first year coaching youth football (10-12 year olds) we went a miserable 0-6.

I vowed that it would never happen again, so I began to read everything I could about youth football. I bought three of your books for football and used them. The next season the other coaches in the league said we "went from the outhouse to the penthouse!" We were Conference Champs. Undefeated in Conference play. Breezed through the playoffs until we got to the superbowl. We ended up losing to a great team, that we had beat earlier in the season. We beat them 20-18, then they ended up beating us 20-19. No shame in that loss.

Here is what I learned from you that made all the difference in the world.

1. We learned how to stop a sweep

2. We had no losses of the ball on snaps,, the entire season

3. We had no losses of the ball on exchanges,, the entire season

4. We threw no interceptions , the entire season

5. We were the best team in the league by far at running between the tackles.

By the way, your GAM is illegal in our league. I have a great modification for it in leagues that outlaw it.

Give me a call when you get a chance,, I'm sure your a busy man, but I know that you would love to hear a few of the specifics that happened when other coaches saw our offense.

I'd love to tell you about them—and that is just our football team. Our baseball team had a great season also.

Thanks Coach

LT Mann


Thanks for being my 'silent partner' in developing an outstanding football team last fall. My 5th grade team played in a league where we don't know who is on our roster until 3 weeks before the first game of the season. Also, league rules require that skilled players (in our case, TB, BB & WB) can only play 2 quarters in any one position, so my backs really need to understand exactly what all of the backfield is doing, all of the time.

My offensive coordinator and I followed the Single Wing playbook to the letter and the results were fantastic! In a league of 6 teams we went 7-2 (we lost one league game 14-12 and another 8-6) and won the championship game 18-6, outgaining the runner-up 201 to 63 yards in the championship game. Oh, the defense only allowed 35 points all season and 3 of the 5 teams in the league did not score against us (we use a slightly modified GAM).

My main thought is that I can't emphasize enough how important it is in a offensive scheme to keep it simple and run the play over and over again until the kids can do it in their sleep, as you have emphasized. We started the season with 5 plays and finished with 9. Every man needs to know exactly what they are doing on each play. I also appreciated the simplicity of the blocking schemes as well and the necessity of the line to understand that they have to work together. Rarely did we have penetration problems.

Thanks for your time and effort to write some fantastic coaching books. My fellow coaches, parents and players all salute you!

Thanks again,

Richard Beasley

5th Grade Buccaneers Head Coach

McKinney, Texas

By the way, your books are great!!! You have been an inspiration to the Northeast Rhode Island Pop Warner Football League. Robert Souza

Found your book on gap-air-mirror defense last year about this time and realized it was the defense we were trying to teach our players the previous season. The head coach (defensive coordinator) read it after I did and it became our defensive playbook. We had 3 shutouts to start the season and allowed less then 6 pts per game in midget division-175 lbs, and up to 14 yrs. old. Some of these kids can really play and we've had fun watching them excel in high schools around orange county the past 3 years. We adopted your single wing offense and found that the clarity of each play was much easier to coach. The experienced kids picked up the advantages right away, the first year kids caught on much quicker then past years teaching a multitude of sets and plays. For the most part we let the tailbacks call the plays by just defense recognition. We lost 1 game during the season to very talented Inglewood team by the score of 7 to 3. The game film identifies the lack of scoring was our inability to sustain blocks with our highest rated players. Still we were inside the 20 four times, 1 made, 1 miss on field goals, 1 interception, and a turnover on downs. Anyway thanks for info and insight, we believe we can be competitive with any group of kids with these schemes. There is 1 extra play,(blast), we found extremely effective when the lb's are playing off 3 or more yds off. We doubled both interior tackles and sent the bb right thru the open gap at the lb with tailback 1 step behind. We were most effective in gap between snap and LG or LG and IT. If you want to any other feedback to your single wing we used give me a ring.

I was lucky enough to be an Offensive Tackle on the ’73 Notre Dame national champion team and a starter on ’75 team. Rudy was our most famous senior teammate and some soph named Montana was a backup at the start of season. Thanks again. Pat J Pohlen 800-779-8273


2004 was my 2nd full year as a Head Football Coach. Last year, in 2003, I coached a 8/9 year old tackle football team. We went 3-8 and although our defense was hard hitting and very tough, we gave up a lot of long touchdown runs.
In preparation to the 2004 season, I spent about a month this summer researching for a defense for my team to run. I stumbled upon your web site and PowerPoint and it made sense to me. It sold me on using the GAP 8 Air defense this year. I had very few returning football players, only 9 players of my 24 players ever played tackle football before. I wanted a defense that would give each kid specific responsibility. The GAP 8 seemed like it would be a good fit for my particular team.

As the defensive coordinator for my team, I was responsible for the defense for my team. In the beginning of the season I introduced your defense to my coaching staff. The coaching staff was skeptical at first, but I convinced them that I thought it was the best defense to run for our team.

The result was a perfect season!!!! My team finished the year by winning the 8/9 year old Super Bowl 24-0. We played in one of the largest youth sports football program in Texas. The league consisted of (23) 8/9 year old teams.

My team completed the season 13-0. Although our offense was unbelievable, we scored a league high 394 points, our defense was also dominant. We also recorded 10 shutouts, including at 24-0 shutout in the Super Bowl, and only gave up 5 touchdowns the entire year. My defensive line averages 63 pounds! The offensive lineman typically outweighed them 2 to 3 times.

Thanks so much for your detailed information, your system really works and my team and I can't thank you enough.

Coach Jim

Jim Pugliese

Head Coach

Freshman Yeager Colts


I own all your football books and they have helped me tremendously.

I coach 7 and 8 year olds and every book has provided me information that contributed to our teams success.

I can not begin to Thank You enough!!!


Coach, back around October 5, I e-mailed you with a concern I had with running your defense. We had just instituted the scheme this year and everything was working pretty well, with the exception of us giving up a lot of big, and I mean really big plays. The defense stopped almost all the plays, but couldn't get it right. Through week four we were 1 - 3 and had been outscored 111-45, and created only 4 turnovers. In your response you asked me to read the book again and gave me some brief pointers on adjusting the defense. You also told me to coach the darn thing, adjust during the game, and not to just line up every week. I took your advice and read the book not once but twice before our next practice. We made adjustments based on our shortcomings, and strengths of upcoming opponents. We cut down on drills, and concentrated more on rehearsing for the game. The results were astonishing. They were greater than anything I had imagined. We finished up the year going 6 - 0, outscoring our opponents 127- 12, created 17 turnovers, 6 of which were interceptions, and we pitched 4 shutouts. Of the points scored all 12 were scored in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter, during mop up time. In our last game a bowl game in Arizona, we had a chance to speak with the coach of the other team in the hotel later that night. He said some of the same things I read when learning of this defense. Thought he could run up the middle, he couldn't.!! Too many bodies laying around... Tried "C" gap but our LB's were controlling that gap. Tried to counter, but back side stayed home, and we slide our short side DE. Went to the air, but had no time to throw, when he did we had coverage. Swept us, but couldn't get outside, our ends really boxed on the wide side. At halftime he said that the entire staff was confused. They decided to spread us out. That had to work. Found out that 5 couldn't block 6, and they still didn't have the time to throw and couldn't run as we continued to play "D" in their backfield. We went on to win the game 25 - 0, and finish the year at 7 - 3. I just want to thank you. We are really looking forward to next year. It will be the second year the kids run this "D", and we have very high expectations. Thanks coach for all of your advise, you made us look like genius'. I love this attacking defense..

Rod Sorenson

Mr. Reed,

I just wanted to let you know that our football team was successful this year thanks to your knowledge and expertise. I corresponded with you back in July and was able to check out one of your books from our public library. I was not aware of your literature on football and actually happened across your web site while surfing the net to gain information to help our coaching staff. When I first approached the other coaches with your defensive suggestions, they were shot down, just as you said, they wanted to run the 6-4. The head coach agreed to give the 10-1 a shot and ran it against the upper level team (4th and 5th graders). It became our primary defense. The only time our team was scored on was when we used a defense other than the 10-1. We finished our year undefeated and won the Central Indiana Batam Football League Championship. Many other points in your book were surprisingly accurate, especially the politics of positions on the team. Something unfortunately we had to combat through out the season. However once the season was over I was approached and asked to coach the line for the upper level team next year.

Thank you

Bryan K Wynn


Sent you an email earlier in the year and thought I would give you a follow up.

Finished our regular season 8-0 with a combined score of 219 to 18. See attached scores. The Single Wing and the 10-1 have obviously worked well.

Your instruction on game preparation has also been extremely important to our success. After scouting one of our opponents this year, I knew that if they lined up in the same defense against us and we correctly executed the off-tackle that we would score on the first play. Guess what? They did and we scored on the first play, Right Formation - Off Tackle.

Pat Thomasson

My name is Craig Happel.

I coach a Pee Wee Football Team (5th and 6th Graders) in Mansfield, Texas. During the three previous seasons my core group of players played .500 ball. The team averaged 25 points a game but gave up 20.

During the summer I did a lot of research and found your book on the gap-air-mirror defense. I studied it, understood it, but I was not sure if I could convince the rest of my coaches that this was the way to go.

My best selling point was we did not have a better plan. We implemented it during the first days of practice.

We gave it another name just so kids could identify with it. We told them no one else would use it and that they were special because they could run it. We completed our season Saturday night winning the Brazos Valley Football Association Super Bowl 18-0. Our regular season record was 8-1. We outscored our opponents 278-28. During the three playoff games including the Super Bowl we outscored our opponents 64-6.

Our boys played outstanding football, but the simplistic but effective gap-air-mirror defense was the difference. The boys did not have to think or read. They just played.

Before the playoffs, one of my assistant coaches emailed you for advice as we entered the playoffs. Your advice was simple and right on track. Thanks for all your help.

My coaches and I are believers in GAP-AIR-MIRROR defense.

Happel, Craig E


We finished the season 11-0, outscoring our opponents 337-54. Pretty good for a 9-10 year old team. We had good players that were made great by the single wing and the 10-1. Thanks again.

Pat Thomasson

This was my second year as head coach of an 8 & under football team. Last year I went 3-4. I bought two of your books, Coaching Youth Football and the Gap-Air-Mirror Defense. We lost one game in the regular season to a team with a 39 game winning streak. I didn’t show them a lot because I knew we would meet again in the playoffs. Sure enough we met in the championship game. By this time they had a 43 game winning streak. We were down 7-0 at halftime but came back to tie by running the crunch series. In overtime we start from the ten with four plays to score. They had us third and twelve and I ran the lonesome polecat. They sent a few guys over to cover but left five players to rush the quarterback. Boom!!! We scored and with the momentum on our side, we went for the two point conversion. I used a halfback pass and it was successful. They scored but missed the two point conversion. Winning streak over. The common mistakes part of youth coaches fit me to a tee, and without your books we never would have won it all.

Thank You,

Keith McGrew

Jasper, TN

Coach -

Without your book, I'm not sure how I would have pulled this season off. We're 3-3 so far and we're looking to close out the season 6-3. Not bad for a first year 3rd grade team.

As part of our preparation, we incorporate your drills and your philosophies with one exception. We've been using Coach Wyatt's Double Wing because a friendly local Coach (who is also a Reed disciple) suggested we try it. He also allows my younger kids mirror his older kids. Once my kids see a play up close, they get it and they can run it effectively. For the most part, we get 30-35 offensive plays per game and we rack up 300 or so yards with as many as seven kids touching the ball three or four of whom will score a touchdown. It sure keeps their parents happy.

We initially installed the GAM defense but my defensive coordinator wanted to use the venerable 5-3 cover for easier substitution. I reluctantly agreed because we have a 12 play minimum rule in our league and it was tough to sub the weaker players. After giving up some cheap points to inferior teams we're now back to the GAM because it works. Period.

Your books should be mandatory reading for anyone who cares to walk the sidelines of a youth football team. If you're ever in Tulsa, look me up. I'd like to shake your hand in gratitude. Thank you.

BTW - You have my permission to post my comments.

Phillip A. Taylor

Tulsa, Oklahoma


I know you're not used to this but I'm going to praise your defense on a loss that we had. I run your defense for the Natick Pop Warner Jr. Redmen B team in Massachusetts and we faced Dorchester Mass in the first round of the playoffs.

Dorchester is a city team with great athletes and greater coaching. No one scored on them all season and they've beaten their opponents by an average of 40 points. They're the Mike Tyson of Pop Warner. Teams would be intimidated by them at the weigh in. In fact, after Dorchester would weigh in, their coaching staff would tell you that it's not necessary for you to weigh in. This group was ready to make their third trip to Florida this year for the Pop Warner Superbowl in as many years.

Dorcherster multiple offense, the power I, crunch, 5 wide, and even the lonesome polecat. During the season and in the following playoff games I saw them totally confuse teams with their formations. Teams wouldn't adjust to the unbalanced line and unbalanced back field, time outs were always called for the lonesome polecat. And what is most disheartening is they ran every formation to perfection. That is why they're a perennial Superbowl team.

So we face the juggernaut in the first round of the playoffs. I drilled the our kids on the basics of the GAM until it was coming out of their ears. Game time comes and we are stuffing Dorchester all game. Our kids know how to line up on any formation, we're stuffing the power I, shifting and mirroring everything. I have to admit, they had a lot more talent and speed then we had. If it wasn't for two broken plays, where our corner fell on a duck pass and a kid missed what should have been a sure tackle, we would have held them to almost negative yards. We ended up losing 16 - 0.

The most amazing thing about the game was that at the end of the award ceremony, the captain of the Dorchester team instructed his players to give Natick a hand for a hard fought victory and we were given a standing ovation.

Coach Roger

I don't know if you remember me, but 3-4 years ago we spoke over the phone many times and I bought several of your youth coaching books. To get to the point, I just want to thank you for giving me the foundation necessary to win a youth football championship in a very competitive league. Your organizational materials gave me and my staff a flying start that would have taken us years of trial and error to accomplish on our own. Also, your suggestion to run the single wing turned out to be sound advice. We took the league by storm, averaging 8.5 yrds per play over the past 2 seasons.

This season was the payoff for us, going 11-0 and outscoring our opponents 334-28. We beat a perennial power in the championship 28-0. If you remember, four years ago, you spent hours on the phone with me trying help me win a ball game. It took 6 games to get that first victory and we ended up 3-7 that first season. 2001 we were 6-4 (my first as head coach) then last season went 8-2. Even as we went into our playoff run this season, I referred back to your books regularly to make sure we continued to stay on track.


Jim Pettigrew

RE/MAX Northwest Realtors

206-306-7710 Offfice

206-306-7759 Fax

206-948-5590 Mobile

I have been waiting to get through the 1st half of the season to give you an update. After winning the championship last year and going 13 and 0, we had a great off season getting ready for this fall. This season we are currently 6-0. In 6 games, using the single wing we have scored 260 points. That’s 43.33 points a game. Defensively using the Gap-Air-Mirror we have given up 6 points! That’s not an average, that’s the total for the season! They scored on us with 5 seconds left in the game. The competition is good. They all have the same talent. They just spin their wheels trying to look like the NFL. Funny thing this season I have noticed a few copy cats trying to do what we do, but they just can’t get all the way there.

Lee Perry, Scorpion President.

“We played our second game Saturday the 21st. The opposing coach is also a referee. They never adjusted to our unbalanced line, and they stayed in a pass defense all morning (as you suggested, youth coaches are stupid). They were also unable to penetrate the GAM -after the first play which the kid ran for about 90 yards (with a net gain of 11).

GAM got us a couple of fumble recoveries, and practicing kickoffs DAILY got us a couple kickoff recoveries. We got to the point where we were kicking deep (to the side of course) to avoid getting the ball back. No matter where they ran, our Straight DOWN THE FIELD coverage was there. Every kid on our team ran the ball if they wanted to.

Our league has a mercy rule which states that if a team is up by more than 41, the game is over and the team with 41+ loses. We were up 32 - zip within the first ten minutes. Warp speed, no huddle, no cadence, single wing. From there on out we were in slow down. As a matter of fact, the refs told us we could take more than 25 seconds if we wanted. Thanks again for the ideas. Your books make me look like a genius.”

“John, I just wanted you to know that we scrimmaged the team who is supposed to be the fastest team in our league last night. We scored on the first play. The other team gained approximately three total yards in the scrimmage and fumbled the ball about six times because of the pressure that our team put on their backfield. Thanks...”

Please go to Part 5