Posts Tagged ‘Phil DeMarco’

A-11 Formation – Illegal?

February 16, 2009

I just learned of another formation with roots in the single-wing and figured I better tell you about it before it is banned. Head Coach Kurt Bryan and Offensive Coordinator Steve Humphries of Piedmont High School near San Francisco, California. Like Pop Warner a century before them, Bryan and Humphries designed a formation to compensate for a weight disadvantage. Like Coach Phil DeMarco at little Windber Area High School in Pennsylvania, Piedmont suffered a size disadvantage when playing much larger schools. The size disadvantage wasn’t just a single-game experience, it continued to present itself as seasons wore on and injuries piled up. Large schools have so many players that they win wars of attrition. By the time playoffs come around, small schools can be pretty short on players. The new formation, the A-11, reduces injuries to players running that offense.

What is the A-11?

High school and college rules require that at least five players wearing numbers between 50 and 79, numbers worn by players not eligible to receive passes, line up on the line of scrimmage – except when in “scrimmage kick formation,” i.e. punt or place kick. Bryan and Humphries found a loophole. They have all their players wear numbers from 1 to 49 or 80 to 99 to become eligible pass receivers. They then line up in a formation, the A-11, that qualifies as a “scrimmage kick formation.”

A-11 Base Formation

A-11 Base Formation


The formation’s single-wing roots become obvious when one notices the direct snaps from the center to the 1 and 2 backs (tailback and fullback). Both of these players are ideally triple-threat guys but coaches have to live with what they have. What makes the A-11 unique is how the other two backs and six linemen are positioned (the center is on already on the line of scrimmage). Just before the snap, these eight players shift so that six of them are on the line of scrimmage and two are back of it. The players’ numbers allow all of them to be in either location. The defense has just a second to sort out the eligible receivers and frequently guess wrong. North Carolina has made it illegal and California is threatening to follow suit. Find out more at

The A-11 was declared illegal after this blog was written but before it was published. For more info see:


Forbes Road

June 23, 2008

This year marks the 250th anniversary of the building (perhaps hewing may be more accurate) of Forbes Road. The Seven Years War between France and Britain was raging around the globe. Pennsylvania found itself at the epicenter of the North American theater of what Americans generally call the French and Indian War. General Forbes set out from Carlisle in 1758 to take Fort Duquesne (present-day Pittsburgh) from the French. He followed Indian paths from Carlisle south along what is today Route 11 to Chambersburg and headed west along what later became Route 30. He widened and improved the crude existing roads and, beginning at Bedford hacked his way west to Pittsburgh. 157 years later, in 1915, Pop Warner likely followed the same route when he left Carlisle to take the reins at the University of Pittsburgh.

Warner took more than his belongings to Pitt; he also took his single- and double-wing offenses. But before football season started, he held a summer camp for his players at Camp Hamilton, a facility Pitt owned just outside the town of Windber. To get to Windber, Warner would have backtracked on Forbes Road past Ft. Ligonier and halfway to Bedford before heading north to Camp Hamilton. It was at Camp Hamilton that Pop schooled his new players in the intricacies of the single- and double-wing. Many Carlisle players headed west to Altoona and Pittsburgh to play for independent teams, but they would not have followed Forbes Road because they most likely traveled by train.

Camp Hamilton became an expensive luxury for Pitt during the Depression, so ownership of it passed to Windber Area School District. In 2003, after posting Windber’s 500th win, Coach Phil DeMarco was looking for something new. That something new turned out to be the single-wing. So, the single-wing returned to Camp Hamilton after a long absence, not so long, however, as Pop Warner’s absence from Pittsburgh. Windber ran the single-wing at Camp Hamilton back in the 1930s when they won two state championships with it by beating John Harris one year and Steelton another.

The 250th anniversary of Forbes Road celebrates more history than the victory of the British over the French, it also honors the opening of the Northwest Territory to settlement and other things that traveled along the road, wanted or not.