This Defense Never Rests

By Staff

Coaching Management, 14.4, April 2006,

Butch Ford has led his team to a 50-4 record during his four years as Head Coach at Celina (Texas) High School, including a 16-0 season last year capped by a Class 2A Division II Texas state championship—Ford’s first state title as head coach. Perhaps even more impressive, Celina allowed only 75 points over the entire season, an average of less than five points per game.

But of all the numbers attached to the Celina program, the most eye-catching may be 10-1, which represents the team’s defensive formation. “Our scheme gives us a chance to win even if the other team has the better talent,” Ford says. “We weren’t the most talented team every time we played, but I still wanted to win, and as long as my players believed in the idea, we always had a chance to win.”

The idea is simple: The defense lines up in gaps and plays man-to-man cover. “There’s no great secret to it,” he says. “It’s giving a player a simple assignment and turning him loose to go play. We don’t put reins on them—we believe in being very, very aggressive.”

The Bobcats’ defense didn’t allow an opponent to score until their fifth game of the season, when they gave up a field goal at the end of the first half. Any fear of the defense being derailed because the streak ended was washed away by the 50-3 final score.

Ford had been a defensive coordinator for 27 years, 25 of them under legendary Texas high school coach G.A. Moore. In 2002, Ford succeeded Moore as head coach at Celina. The two coaches started using a 10-1 formation their first year working together, but don’t take credit for coming up with anything original.

“All coaches steal or borrow from other coaches,” Ford explains. “We got the idea from somewhere else and applied it to our own situation. Our defense is actually very similar to the Chicago Bears’ famous “46” defense and the New York Jets’ defense when Bill Parcells was coaching there.

“It’s not common, but it’s easy to learn,” he continues. “The peewee, junior high, and j.v. teams here use it, so by the time the kids get to the varsity level, they fall right in line.”

His defense hasn’t been exactly the same since the ’70s though, as Ford has made continual adjustments. “With all the new offenses—the one-backs, shotguns, and low-backs—we’ve had to adjust our approach a little depending on the situation,” he says. “But we still keep the same concept of what we’re trying to do. And that’s to fill gaps, be aggressive, and come after you. It’s up to the offense to decide what they’re going to do about us.”

Whether it’s because they grew up playing the 10-1 defense or because of the success they’ve enjoyed, Ford’s players love the defense and its simplicity. “Most defensive tackles have specific scenarios they have to learn,” Ford says. “A lot of, ‘If this player does this or that, you do that.’ We don’t practice a lot of ifs. We just get them motivated and fired up to play. My players tell the coaches and local reporters they love the excitement of playing this type of defense and that it’s fun for them—like football should be.”

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