New Enterprise coach Rick Darlington is making a lot of changes in the EHS football program but none more drastic than his ‘single wing’ offense being implemented this season.
Along with a 214-73 career record and three state championships, Darlington is bringing his record-setting offense to the Wildcat program.
For the past seven seasons Enterprise has strictly run the ‘spread offense’ under former coach David Faulkner but all that changes in 2019.
Darlington said that he had run numerous offenses over the course of his coaching career but had primarily worked with the “flex bone” and “wing-T” offenses. Then, in 2006 a frustrated Darlington decided to think outside the box.
“In 2006 we went 9-3 (at Apopka High School in Florida) but I was just kind of frustrated with the offense,” Darlington said. “Then, our staring quarterback graduated and his backup transferred to another school, so I had no quarterback.
“Someone said to me ‘you should run the ‘single wing’ because there is no quarterback.’ I had no idea what that even was.”
Darlington said he researched the offense invented by Pop Warner himself and traveled to a coaching clinic where the formation was being taught.
“I thought that if I do this with the talent we had that we could be very successful and no one else was doing it,” Darlington said. “I do all this research and put it together and then we play our preseason game and we get down 42-0 at halftime.”
After that failure in the preseason, Darlington switched back to the “flex bone” offense and simply moved one of his running backs to quarterback. Apopka then defeated one of its rivals and ironically, it was the “single wing” that lost the game for their rivals.
“The single wing lost them the game,” Darlington said. “On fourth-and-goal, they had a ‘single wing’ package they would do (on the goal line) – and the center snapped the ball over the running back’s head and we won.”
Apopka then went on to start the season 4-0 before facing another tough rival opponent, when Darlington once again stepped outside the box. Darlington said that he had done all the research and time implementing the “single wing” that he didn’t just want to toss it away.
“I walked out on the (practice) field and I had no idea what I was going to do,” Darlington emphasizes. “I had no plan at all. We just started moving guys around and literally that day we just made up an offense. It looked kind of like Auburn’s offense.
“We went on to lose to (our rival) but we rushed for like 420 yards that day and I felt like we had found our offense.”
Apopka went on to make it all the way to the state semifinals and boasted a 12-2 season record that year.
“We mixed some spread into it and it just evolved (over time),” Darlington said of his version of the offense. “It was just so unique.”
A number of things about the Enterprise offense will look different to Wildcat fans in 2019, including the lineup. The ‘single wing’ implements five down linemen – and a tight end – like any other offense, but the way they are positioned is what makes it unique.
The ‘single wing’ features an unbalanced line of scrimmage with only a tight end and offensive guard called the “quick guard” on the weak side of the line next to the center. On the strong side of the line of scrimmage next to the center will be a “strong guard,” “inside tackle” and “outside tackle.”
Lined up in the backfield is typically a fullback/quarterback and tailback with both a hammerback and wingback lined up offset from the other backs. A receiver is typically flexed out four yards from the offensive line on the line of scrimmage.
In the ‘single wing’ any number of players can carry the football whether it be the fullback/quarterback, tailback, hammerback, wingback or even receiver. The tailback and wingback can even potentially throw passes along with the quarterback/full, and both the tailback and fullback/quarterback will take snaps throughout a game.
One of the more important positions on the Enterprise offense will be the center. The offense starts with the snap of the football and the center has to be extremely accurate with where he is snapping the football because of the various positions that might actually receive the snap on a given play in the “single wing.”
Darlington’s version of the “single wing” also boasts “spins” as a type of deception on the offense.
“When 17-year-old kids see all this motion and spinning kids freak out,” Darlington said. “With the spins, you’re trading power for deception.”
When a player receives the snap and begins to spin he could potentially hand it off to another player that’s either spinning or coming back in motion, or he can simply take off with it himself. That deception can drive defenses mad.
While the look of the offense will likely remind longtime EHS fans of offenses run by former coach Bill Bacon or other coaches that ran “flex-bone” style offenses, the passing game can still be a major factor in Darlington’s version of the “single wing.”
The tight end has to be a solid blocker but he can also go out for pass routes just like the receiver, the tailback, wingback and hammerback. Even the fullback/quarterback could potentially go out on a pass route if the tailback or hammerback is handling the passing duties on any particular play.
Darlington’s offense isn’t just a unique look or design, it’s successful. Along with winning three state championships with it, Darlington shattered Florida high school scoring records at Apopka.
In three consecutive seasons using the “single wing,” Apopka had three running backs with at least 1,000 yards on the same team. In one of those seasons, a back ran for more than 2,000 yards while two others had more than 1,000. His 2013 Apopka offense rolled up more than 6,000 yards rushing and an average of 51 points per game in 15 games, which was a state record in Florida.