Posts Tagged ‘Hidden Ball Play’

Warner Did Run Hidden Ball Play Against Penn State in 1897

January 30, 2011

In responding to a comment from Jeff Miller, I did a little more research on the hidden ball play and found something useful. In its coverage of the 1897 Cornell game, the December 1897 edition of the Penn State school newspaper, “The Free Lance,” described the dastardly play that Pop Warner ran under against their boys in the cover of almost darkness. Now we know for sure that Warner did first run the play essentially as he said he did. What we still don’t know is whether Heisman ran it a year or two earlier. Perhaps the Auburn, Vanderbilt or Georgia school newspapers covered their teams’ respective games.

The Penalty Play

November 9, 2010

Readers of this blog are probably well familiar with trick plays that the Carlisle Indians ran. There’s a new one that they didn’t run but would have if they had thought of it. The Penalty Play has aspects of the Dead Indian Play and the Hidden Ball Play with some more deception thrown in.

Driscoll Middle School of Corpus Christi, Texas was trailing rival Wynn Seale 6-0 late in the third quarter when the Wynn Seale defense was penalized five yards. It was then that Driscoll’s quarterback saw his chance to call the trick play the team had been working on prior to the game. Immediately after the officials respotted the ball, Driscoll quarterback Jason Garza told his center, in a voice everyone could hear, that the refs were going to mark off five more yards and to give him the ball. The center then handed the ball to the Garza who then casually stepped off several yards straight through the defense. When he cleared the secondary, Garza took off running for the goal line and outraced the defenders who belatedly figured out it was a trick.

While Garza did a great job of acting, his coach, Art Rodriguez, served as his foil on the sideline by barking commands to him and making animated gestures to help confuse the defense. The coach’s part in this ruse is visible on the bottom of the screen at the beginning of the clip. This play was picked up by the Today show and The New York Daily News. Rodriguez revealed that the play was the brainchild of assistant coach John Delosantos.

The play can be viewed without a commercial at

Hidden Ball Play Was More Complicated that It Appeared

August 26, 2010

I was just reviewing some materials on the hidden ball play that Carlisle ran successfully against Harvard in 1903 and learned that getting the play off correctly was more complicated than it seemed. For starters, the kickoff had to be deep enough to give the players time to assemble around the person who received the kick, James Johnson in this case. The Harvard kicker put his first kick out of bounds and had to rekick. There must not have been much of a penalty for that in those days because he was able to put the second kick on the goal line.

Johnson’s teammates had to line up precisely to make the other team think they were forming a wedge to block for Johnson. Room for Johnson to stand next to Dillon was essential to making the play work. It was (and probably still is) illegal to hand or pass the ball forward on a kickoff. The ball had to go backward or laterally. By standing alongside Dillon, Johnson was able to reach back to place the ball under his jersey, thus keeping the play legal. Doing it this way also screened what was he was doing from the prying eyes of the Harvard defenders.

Another potential hurdle that has to be cleared is the official. An official who is unfamiliar with the play may incorrectly disallow the touchdown and penalize the team for running it. Warner took care to inform the Referee, Mike Thompson of Georgetown, that the play was to be run so that he would pay special attention to the handoff and make sure that it was legal.

By paying attention to all the little details, including selecting a ball carrier with speed, especially for a big man, Warner pulled off a trick that is still being talked about over a century later.

Seek Restoration of Indian School

April 12, 2010

When looking for information on Asa Sweetcorn, I found a 1935 United Press article in which he was mentioned that had nothing to do with his exploits while at Carlisle. Titled “Seek Restoration of Indian School,” the article, datelined Carlisle, Pa., March 15, the article told of former Carlisle Indian School students’ attempt to reopen the school. Charles Dillon, who is best known for his role as “humpback” in the “hidden ball” play run against Harvard in 1903, spearheaded the movement. “Dillon, one of the greatest of the long line of football heroes who wore the colors of the old Indian School, was in town the other day sounding out sentiment on the proposed return of the Redskins.”

Dillon was on his way to Washington, DC to pry loose a few New Deal dollars to launch the program. He felt that little government money would be required to fund the school. He told some old friends in Carlisle, “Our aim is to build a college with Indian money, to be conducted by and for Indians. And only a comparatively few dollars are needed from the government to launch the program.” According to Mr. Dillon, “Scores of graduates of the erstwhile Carlisle Indian School are ready to contribute thousands of dollars toward establishing the school.”

He was to return to Carlisle the following week after negotiating with New Deal officials. Accompanying him were Jim Thorpe, Gus Welch, Albert “Chief” Bender and Asa Sweetcorn. That was a bad time for Indian schools to pry money out of the government. Lone Star Dietz left Haskell Institute in 1933 to coach the Boston Redskins after the government slashed Haskell’s budget. Gus Welch was well aware of funding issues as he replaced Dietz at Haskell. It is easy to understand why Dillon, Thorpe, Bender and Welch supported the initiative because they flourished at Carlisle. Sweetcorn’s involvement is curious because he was “canned” in Carlisle for his antics that reflected less than a studious attitude.