Churubusco coach Paul Sade used to make it a point to plan out his first offensive series of a game.
To him, it allowed his team and his coaches to be on the same page. To practice during the week the plays Sade planned to open the game with.
“I used to do it religiously, and maybe I should this year with the new wrinkles we have in our offense,” Sade said. “Problem was, I really focus on seeing how a few of our players react in certain situations early in the game. When scripting plays, sometimes you’re not able to see what you want to see. Other times, you see what you want to see and it dictates your decisions the rest of the game, but those decisions are wrong.”
One of the hottest topics in college football and the NFL is scripting plays, pre-planning a series of offensive plays to open the game with. Some teams script just the opening series, while other teams and coaches look to have close to 10 or 15 plays scripted.
The strategy of scripting plays is also prevalent at the high school level, but there are various unforeseen hiccups that can arise that can disrupt a significant amount of planning.
“We script 12 (plays) for each game, but I could probably count on my hand how many times we get straight through them,” said Columbia City coach Brett Fox. “Down and distance changes some or makes me move things up or down.
“We will call the first 12 in our first three drives, though.”
With playbooks full of dozens of plays, why would a team script its opening offensive series? Some coaches want to see certain matchups within those scripted plays, while others want to set a group of plays in which the team has practiced and perfected for an entire week.
South Adams coach Grant Moser typically scripts only the first few plays, but has between 5 and 10 plays that he will call in the first few series.
“We try to show as many formations as possible early to see how (the defense) will line up,” Moser said. “We then make our calls (going forward) based on what we learn.”
Bishop Luers scripts about 10 to 15 plays every game. Coach Kyle Lindsay did it when he was a coordinator with the Knights, now Offensive Coordinator Jeff Stanski does the same.
However, no matter how much planning and teaching goes in to scripting plays, circumstances can change the game plan, even after just one play.
For instance, sometimes a defense doesn’t cooperate. Northrop under Coach Jason Doerffler does not script plays per se, but the Bruins an idea of how they want to start in terms of offensive play calls.
“Last week, Wayne came out with an entirely different defensive front than we saw on film,” Doerffler said. “We have a good idea what we are going to run early on, but it depends on field position and the defensive look.”
Rarely does an entire script go off without a hitch. In fact, some coaches claim they have never had a scripted series of plays be called one after another without any deviation.
“Our plan really depends a lot on the result of the first play and what you expect to see in early situations (from film study, tendencies, etc.) vs. what you actually see come game time,” Lindsay said.
Scripting sometimes has less to do with in-game execution and gaining an early advantage and more about the psyche of prep football players. Fox knows that every football player is different, both in their style of play and how they handle the mental aspect of the game.
“I like (scripting) because it allows our players to know what to expect when they’re all jacked up being a 14- to 18-year-old kid on a Friday night,” Fox said. “We can get certain kids the ball early to calm their nerves and allow them to be them.”
To fans in the stands or casual viewers on TV, the first couple of plays of a game from high school to pro may not look like much in terms of their long-term impact. But coaches, their staffs and their players have put a lot of thought into those first few snaps and series.