Trick plays are a part of every offensive playbook. Sometimes you need a big play and a little trickeration can make it happen.
There have been a lot of great trick plays throughout the history of football. In this episode we take a look at three of the best High School Football trick plays. These could be a part of any offensive playbook.
Where These Trick Plays Started
- Hook and Lateral: Probably not the first, but made famous by the 1982 Dolphins against San Diego. The play never worked in practice, but it worked perfectly in the game. And the Dolphins eventually lost, but who cares.
- The Reverse: Like almost everything else in football, Amos Alonzo Stagg invented it.
- Toss Pass: Well, the halfback option pass was possibly called first by Homer Woodson Hargiss at the College of Emporia in 1910. Hargiss is also claimed as the first coach to use the forward pass in the same season, but other schools dispute that.
- Trick plays take advantage of teams over-playing a base play. They’re no different as constraint plays than a counter, draw, play action, or screen. What we consider trick plays are usually a little more dramatic.
- What these plays all have in common is that they are fully committed to the first play, before they go to the ‘trick’.
How to Execute Trick Plays
- The reverse starts with a running back taking a handoff or pitch and running full speed to one side. He’s usually deep in the backfield.
- A receiver comes running the opposite direction and takes the handoff from the back, taking it back around the other side.
- A good reverse gets a lot of the defense running the wrong direction. But you still have to block a few. I like to pull the back side guard to block. He will need to kick out the back side defender that stays home.
- The Quarterback can get out and lead block on the reverse, too. Or you can fake a run and have the Quarterback run the sweep.
- Starts with a toss play or outside run play (halfback pass). You need to sell the outside run play to get the perimeter defenders to come out of coverage.
- Once the ball carrier gets space outside, he can pull up and throw to the open receiver. This is an option play (RPO!) where if the running back has room to run he will take it. If the defenders come up, he can throw it.
- The play works best when you have a running back or receiver who has a good arm. At the College and NFL level, most teams have one or two skill players who were Quarterbacks at lower levels.
Hook and Lateral (or Hook and Ladder)
- Starts with a hitch or curl route. This play has the highest difficulty of the plays we look at, because you have to complete the pass first.
- You need to see that the corner is driving down hard on the receiver. Set it up with a couple of hitches/curls.
- The timing is critical on the play because you need the player receiving the lateral to get in front of the receiver at just the moment he catches it. The lateral is like a hot potato. Just catch and flip it.
- You can leak a back out of the backfield or a tight end to receive the lateral.
- This play is difficult to execute but if you’ve got it down it seems to always work.
Defending Trick Plays
- All trick plays are trying to get the defense to overcommit to one play, then hit them where the weakness is created.
- Clearly define your run fits. Make sure players know what they are supposed to do. There is always someone responsible for reverses and toss passes.
- Stay in Coverage defenders in your Umbrella Run Fits protect against the Toss Pass. The Counter-Reverse-Bootleg player, usually the back side Force player, obviously has the Reverse.
- In all cases, defenders need to be alert for the unusual.
- The receiver continues to run his route on the toss, instead of blocking the defender.
- The outside receiver takes off running in the backfield on a run play. That is something that he would never do unless it was a reverse or fake reverse.
- A player starts sprinting out of the backfield on a quick hitch pass. This is the hardest one to recognize because it is so far out of the ordinary. The corner should attack the outside hip of the receiver, but often the lateral happens as he engages. He has no chance to adjust. Just make sure everyone is running to the football.
- The best defense against trick plays is being aware of situations where most coaches use trick plays.
- Change of Possession
- End of Half or End of Game
- “Desperate teams do desperate things”. If a team has their back against the wall, make sure your players are on high alert.
- An article on the origins of the Hook and Lateral, and the proper name from the Herald-Whig newspaper in Illinois.
- Coaching Umbrella Run Fits, to keep your players in position to defend these plays.