Football season is underway for HISD middle schools. Rocks Off helps coach a 7th and 8th grade team. Which means we've been working fervently with 12-to-14-year-olds these past three weeks, aimlessly trying to get them to understand how to identify which side of the offense is the strong side when most of them can't even figure out whether they're on offense or defense.
Some conversations that have taken place since practice started:
Coach: Why didn't you intercept the ball?! It came right to you.
Player: I'm the safety.
Player: The safety can do that?
Coach: ...Get off the field, son.
Coach: Why didn't you jump on that fumble, son?!
Player: I didn't wanna get my shirt dirty.
Coach: ...Get off the field, son.
Cornerback: What position are you?
Linebacker: I don't know.
Cornerback: I think you're cornerback.
Linebacker: Okay, thanks. Are we on offense?
Player: Coach, my helmet won't fit through my jersey.
Coach: Give it here. Let me see. ...Son, you're putting your head through the sleeve.
Player: Oh, okay. Thanks, coach.
Alas, the team marches forward. And even if we win zero games (a distinct possibility), this year we are cooler than ever, because we have several plays in our binder named after Houston rappers. No shit.
It started as a joke, but has morphed into a legit thing. And it appears it might even be helping. Seventh-grade girls love being coy and clever; they pay extra close attention to that sort of thing. So do football players. Go figure. At any rate, a peek into the playbook at the five we're (planning on) using regularly:
Play Name: Quarterback Option to the Left
How It Works: The quarterback fakes the handoff to the fullback, then rolls to the left and attacks the left B gap. The running back is in tow at a wider angle. If there is a crease, the quarterback exploits it. If the defensive end closes it, the quarterback pitches the ball to the running back. Ideally, the linebacker will be occupied by the tight end, who has pulled to the left side for that specific purpose.
What The Play Has Been Disguised As: Swang! Swang! Swang!
Named After: Trae's "Swang"
Why: Because of one line from the song: "I'ma swang, I'ma swang, I'ma swang to the left." Simple stuff.
Play Name: 3-2 Dive
How It Works: We line up with our biggest, strongest player in the running back position. (At the moment, it's a boy named M who is built like a rhinoceros.) The ball is hiked, given to him, and he explodes through the right A gap, demolishing any linebacker foolish enough to put his nose in the way.
What The Play Has Been Disguised As: Pro! Pro! Pro!
Named After: Propain
Why: Because of the excellently demonstrative "Fuck you, pay Pro" line in his underappreciated "Don't Even Worry 'Bout It." There are no tricks or gimmicks or gadgets to this play. As soon as we line up for it, every respectable defense knows what's about to happen.
We only run it on short-yardage situations and on the goal line. Got the ball on the two yard line, early in the fourth quarter with a chance to put a boot on the other team's throat, and their defense is desperate to keep those six points out of our pocket? Fuck you, pay Pro.
*We explained this in a completely different manner to the team. As much as we'd like to, we refrain from cussing at young teenagers. Even ones who have accidentally tackled their own players.
Play Name: Trips Right
How It Works: We take our three fastest, most sure-handed players and line them all up on the right side of the field. The ball is snapped and they take off like tiny missles. They each run slightly different routes. The quarterback throws it to whichever one was able to lose his man in the jumble.
What The Play Has Been Disguised As: Murder! Murder! Murder!
Named After: UGK's "Murder"
Why: "Murder" possesses the most unstoppable verse in all of Southern rap history (Bun's). While we've had this play in our catalog for the last few years, this year we have a few legitimate athletes, and they have have made this play just about unstoppable too. Also, only the most astute defenses know how to handle the assault. More often than not though, it ends in the figurative death of a cornerback or two.
How It Works: The ball is snapped, the quarterback hands it off to a receiver who is curling behind the offensive line to the right, who then hands it off to a receiver curling behind the offensive line to the left.
What The Play Has Been Disguised As: Geto! Geto! Geto!
Named After:: Geto Boys
Why: Have you ever seen an untamed seventh-grade linebacker's face when he's over-pursued to the right and realizes that the ball's going the opposite direction and he's abandoned his station (one of his primary duties is to stay put just in case this exact thing happens)? It's brutal. He was certain he saw the ball going to the right, he'll tell his coach. Naturally, this is inspired by the Geto Boys' "My Mind's Playing Tricks on Me."
Play: Pitch (Either Right or Left)
How It Works: The backs line up in a split backfield set The ball is hiked, faked to the fullback (who runs through the right A gap), then pitched to the proper running back.
What The Play Has Been Disguised As: One shot! One shot! One shot!
Named After: Delo's "One Shot."
Why: Because of the line, "It's hard to look fly with a gunshot to the face."
There's a kid on the team this year that, for certain, was touched on the forehead by God at birth. He is, without question, the most naturally athletic kid we've ever had. He's not the biggest or the strongest, but he moves like a Corvette. In the open field, you stand no chance against him, which is the whole point of this play.
In practice, we call for it only in short-yardage situations, when the defense is expecting our tow truck (the aforementioned M) to come bruising through the line. The handoff is faked to him, the defenses collapses inwards, and the ball is pitched. Generally, this leaves the outside linebacker one-on-one with The Athlete, and The Athlete NEVER loses one-on-one battles.
If the linebacker manages to get close, The Athlete delivers a solid stiff arm to the screws of the helmet, and it's a wrap. The poor linebacker is left laying in the dirt, praying that nobody saw him get completely embarrassed. It's hard to look fly with a stiff arm to the face.
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There are a few others we use - if the quarterback shouts "BEES! BEES!", for example, that means the outermost receiver is to run a fade route, on account of Doughbeezy's atom-splitting ball fade - but those five are the ones we run well enough to try during actual games.
Our first 8th-grade game is Wednesday. We'll let you know.