In this 2012 file photo, Archer head coach Andy Dyer (left) watches as defensive coordinator Joel Bridges calls a play during a game.
Parkview quarterback Jack Chambers looked to the sideline to get a play last week. When he looked at his wrist band, it read the following.
“Lt pro Hip ‘JAR’ gangster 65 ‘Y’ Rocket Screen Left”
Wait, did he just read that right?
Was that a football play or a nuclear equation? Maybe it was a college physics answer. Or was his wrist band messed up and he just got the wrong play?
What Chambers read was the long version of the play. It was condensed to just a simple phrase like Blue 13. The days of old fashioned play calls are long gone. There’s no more ‘Right, half back dive on one’ There’s no more learning a route tree and memorizing numbers. Now a days, teams rely on key words or phrases. It almost sounds like a special football code.
“I can talk to a coach about a play and say one or two phrases and they’ll know what I’m talking about,” Central Gwinnett coach Todd Wofford said. “It’s almost like a cult.”
The complicated verbiage of football plays that have long been used in the NFL has trickled down to the high school level into one or two words.
“You name it something the kids can remember,” Parkview coach Cecil Flowe said. “Once they realize what the word means, it’s a way to position them on the field.”
Teams will use words like Mesh, Fire, Stack, college names, states and cities as some of their play calls. To the average person it means very little. To a high school football player, it may give them the formation, blocking assignment and route to run.
“Everybody has a different way of doing things,” South Gwinnett coach John Small said. “You try to make it simple for them, so you can go at a fast pace.”
The evolution of spread-style offenses and no-huddle offenses have made teams go to short phrases for play calls. It’s just too much time to huddle or call out a long play at the line of scrimmage.
“There’s a lot of dead time in there,” Collins Hill coach Kevin Reach said. “I think when the hurry-up offense took over, you want to get the ball out as much as possible.”
Collins Hill ran 84 offensive plays in its first game of the season. A big help in getting in so many plays is the ability to call plays quickly at the line of scrimmage.
“I think when you have an offense like mine, a spread offense, you need words that will make it fast,” Wofford said. “If you look at the spread offenses like Oregon and Oklahoma State, the concepts are the same. It comes down to the code words.”
Most teams have a set of code words they use season after season. Others will make up words based on their personnel and what’s easiest for them to remember.
“To help us play faster, we just keep it simple and make it one word. They know the signals for it,” Shiloh coach Troy Hobbs said. “Sometimes they will say can we change to make it easier, so we can understand.”
Mill Creek’s Shannon Jarvis will go as far as naming a play after a player. If the play ends up being a big play, then he will keep it. When he was at South Gwinnett in 1998, they had a play called Ray 70 Mesh. They play was designed for standout receiver Ted Crawford. So they changed it to Ray 70 Mesh ‘Ted.’
“He caught a touchdown on it and from that point on this route combination has been named ‘Ted’” Jarvis said. “Even though it is not in every game plan, it most recently was in a game plan three years ago. I am not sure if Ted even knows we still have it or even what it was. This has been over 12 years ago and I can still draw it up and remember it.”
Memorization and little things that can quickly remind players of a football play are important. Teams will use wrist bands, words, signals and signs on the sideline to get plays in quickly. It’s all quirky jargon, but it gets the job done.
“Anything we feel like to keep it simple and make it fast,” Duluth coach Jason Conner said. “Instead of remembering numbers, we just call it something. It’s the same thing, just take the numbers out.”