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AFM Magazine

The Situation

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You’re on offense and down 21-13 with only 1:15 left before halftime.

Your opponent’s been using a multiple front defense based out of a 4-4 with a base Cover 3 behind it. It’s 3rd and 10 and the ball is on the right hash of their 35 yard line. Your spread offense has been somewhat successful but you need a first down to continue the drive and, hopefully, score before the half.

What play do you call?

John Flath, Offensive Line Coach,
Lakeland High School (FL).
AFM subscriber since 2003.

In this situation, we would use our play: ‘Leo Far 7 Cowboy.’

1. Get the first down – move the chains.
2. Hit the big play – Score! Take the momentum into halftime.

Clock Considerations:
The priority is to get the first down. We will manage the clock accordingly based on the outcome of this play. With a conversion there is plenty of time and the issue becomes scoring while leaving the opponent as little time as possible.

QB Progression:
1. If the X square out is there, take it. Get the first down. Get what you can and get out of bounds.
2. Find the free safety. If he bites on the drag by #3, go over the top to #2 on the climb route.
3. If the free safety is deep and the rover has the drag, then run. Get as much as you can and get out of bounds.

In 2003, I was the head coach at University HS, Orlando. We were in a similar situation, down 20 to 7 at the half to a district opponent, Winter Park HS. On two consecutive series we ran this play in third and four to six situations hitting the climb for touchdowns. This play enabled us to reverse our momentum and earn a 42-41 double overtime victory.

Leo Far 7 Cowboy

Chris Watts, Head Coach,
Liberty High School, Bedford VA.
AFM subscriber since 2005.

When our ‘Spread’ package is working effectively, there are a couple of plays that we use in third down situations vs. a 4-4 scheme. The first play is ‘144 Z-Cross’ out of what we refer to as a regular spread. There is a play-action portion to this play which may seem unnecessary on third and ten. But we have found that, unless the yardage is extreme, the playside LB will honor the play action enough to make the play successful. They can’t seem to help themselves. Our Z will have a tight alignment and use the far side inside backer as his landmark and try to take a path that would put him two to three yards deeper than the LB’s pre-snap alignment. We will run our 44 Zone action to get the LB to freeze or step up to fill allowing the crossing Z to fill the void that is created. The play has netted several big gains for us due to the fact that the Z is in full stride when he catches the ball and there is no one else in the area to make a play if the other receivers have been honored. It is also effective vs man coverage for the same reason. If the team has scouted well, or we have run it too often and the Z is covered, then the flat receiver is many times left wide open. This has netted several key plays for us as well. As a third option, there is always the post behind the safety if he begins to creep. And if that backer is not stepping up to fill for our zone and trap scheme, we shouldn’t be in too many third and ten’s to begin with!

Right Spread: 144 Z-Cross
QB: rides the tailback, then takes a three-step drop.
TB: sells the play fake and then blocks the EMLOS

Coming in January: You’re on defense and facing a spread shotgun passing attack with trips to your right side on the wide side of the field. A lone receiver is also flanked to your left. You are up seven, 35-28, late in the fourth quarter. Now you face the most critical play of the game: fourth and eight on your 18 yard line. What defense do you use and how do you play the four wide receivers so you can get the ball back?
Go to or send your response and play diagram to AFM’s Managing Editor Rex Lardner


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