Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
LOUISVILLE — For three decades, Monarch coach Phil Bravo has sold a near-extinct brand of football that has all the excitement of a stamp collection.
It works because — well, it works.
Bravo’s seemingly simplistic and intricate double-wing formation runs away from the new-age, throw-it-every-down playbook embraced by the fantasy football generation, yet it has found staying power since the coach brought it to the state’s football scene in the early 1990s.
“We’re that team that when another team gets us on the schedule they go, ‘Oh they’re that weird team that does something very, very different,'” junior offensive tackle Alex Waschak said. “We love it because it’s so unique — and because it hasn’t failed.”
Bravo helped spread this new-old way of thinking with the scheme’s architect, Don Markham, in southern California in the mid-80s.
“If Don was the Godfather I’d like to think I was the right-hand man to the Godfather,” Bravo said.
And with it, the formation quickly became a phenomenon — albeit one nobody wanted to watch. The Los Angeles Times called it “a blend of the old — a Vince Lombardi-style running attack — with the downright prehistoric — an intricate shell-game deception from the leather-helmet era.”
With seven guys scrunched on the line, two wings on either side , a quarterback who is required to block on nearly every play, and a running back behind him, Markham made the double wing a brand name. He broke the high school scoring record in 1994 in California and brought it to Oregon for a short stint, where state officials enacted a 45-point mercy rule because of his offense’s dominance -— tabbing it “the Markham rule”.
Bravo found great success with it too, winning a title with it in California at Whittier Christian High School in 1990 and two more with Monarch in 2002 and 2012. Around town, many little league football teams use a variance of the formation to ingrain their players into Bravo’s system.
“Through the evolution of the game of football you see different styles of offenses picked up and placed on the field,” Bravo said. “Then it evolves back to watching Alabama in the national championship running four, five or six plays over the last five years. Teams know they’re going to run it, but they just run it perfect. … Granted they get the best players in America, but I don’t think you need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out that if you can execute plays and get yards moving the ball up the field, why wouldn’t you run it?”
In 2018, Monarch returns just seven starters from a team that went 8-3 and exited in the first round of the 4A state playoffs a year ago. On offense, the Coyotes return four players -— all on the line — in tight end Jackson Bennett, tackle Davis Elliott, guard Logan McClung and Division-I prospect Waschak. Kyle Gordon will take over at quarterback as just a sophomore.
Gordon’s role — a runner, blocker, and occasional passer — is unique compared to that of the 21st-century QB.
“My role is to just look after all my guys, all my players, all my brothers,” Gordon said. “Just help execute the plays, lead the team and just be there for everyone.”
The Coyotes begin the season in Florida to face Dixie Hollins on Aug. 23 before returning to face Rampart Sept. 7, the team that knocked them out of last year’s playoffs. They’ll kick off league play against Loveland on Oct. 5 as part of the realigned 4A Longs Peak League, which also includes Fort Collins, Greeley Central, Silver Creek and Skyline.
Bravo, asked about his expectations of the season, said what his team lacks in flash they make up for in energy and intelligence. And with his system as the guide, he hopes it’s a perfect fit.
“We have a lot of guys who are returning lettermen, maybe not as many returning starters as we’ve typically had, but we have a lot of guys who have been in the thick of battle. They’re smart, anticipatory learners and I’m excited to put these guys out on the field,” Bravo said. “We’re not filled with a bunch of superstars, which to be quite truthful with you, the teams that have prospered in the past have been teams with fewer superstars but more kids who are striving to gain that level of status.”
Brent W. New: email@example.com or tweet @brentwnew