My High School Football Legacy of Clarence Stasavich
I played high school football in western North Carolina near the small town of Hickory, North Carolina. It isn’t so small any more and it is not as back woods as it was in my youth. Instead of the mill town feel, it has a more metropolitan feel. But the town I remember in my youth didn’t even have a pizza parlor until I left for college.
My father always wanted me to be an athlete so I played a good many sports when I was young. He wanted me to get a scholarship for college in football or something. Unfortunately, my talents lay elsewhere. I wasn’t exactly first stringer material and only got in the game a few times from the time I was a freshman until my junior year. (I finally realized as a senior that I could quit since I really wanted to write on the school paper more than play sports.)
While I was playing, I ended up playing center on offense and interior lineman or linebacker on defense. I played on the second string. Since we were in the foothills of North Carolina, there were a number of high schools with coaches who had been taught under Clarence Stasavich of Lenoir-Rhyne College. This meant they played single-wing offense which was taught by Coach Stasavich religiously. (No pun intended as LR is a Lutheran college.)
Playing single-wing is something that I will never forget. It is an intricate dance by the offensive team that is a thing of beauty when done well. Blocking, faking, laterals, feighting, and all are done with beautiful precision. I loved going to LR games to watch them as they were some of the best. Others such as Appalachian State and East Carolina played it, but never to the precision of LR in the good years.
As center, you had to long snap every play to one of three different backs depending on the play called. Once snapped, the linemen would do elaborate cross blocking and pulling which meshed with the dance that the blocking back and the fullback performed with the wing back. All this movement was choreographed in a way that defenses had to be very good or they would be left behind in a confused state. There were times when our second string group would score on the first string defense since we got good at running the offense. The only thing that comes close today is the wishbone offense in the different ways that you can run.
The demise of the single wing came fairly quickly as I remember. People just weren’t able to sustain the high level of talent needed to run it. It is hard to keep a cohesive unit together and it is very hard to coach. Defenses also evolved into more than the five man front that was played at the time. Stasavich was a master though and I will never forget watching his LR teams on Saturday nights with my Dad. I’ll also never forget playing the little bit of it in those three short years.