In part one we looked at the importance of avoiding the factors in high school football games that cause you to lose games. Until you can stop the things that cause you to lose, it is difficult to set your sights on winning. Punting issues, turning the ball over and giving up long runs and passes were the first three items on the list.
4) Poor play in goal line situations- Sooner or later, your ability to win a game will come down to whether or not you can stop someone on the goal line or whether or not you can score inside the ten yard line late in the game. If you play overtime, the whole game comes down to your goal line play. You must have an offensive plan of how to get the ball in the end zone. More importantly you must practice that plan. You must have a defensive philosophy inside the ten yard line and execute that philosophy. You must practice goal line defense. Many teams have a general plan, but put a limited amount of practice time into that plan. Most offensive teams are very predictable inside the ten yard line. A little prep work, a good scheme and some practice reps will improve your goal line defense. It is also important to sell your plan mentally and emotionally. If your defense believes that it can stop the offense when you have 1st and goal from the seven yard line, it just might happen. Your goal line offense must allow you to be physical, have a play action pass or two and get the ball outside on the run by speed sweep, option or some other sweep play. It always helps to be able to execute a QB sneak. Because these plays are so vital to your success, you may want to consider making sure that you have your very best people in the game in goal line situations. Have you ever lost a game because you got inside the ten three times but ended up trying three field goals? That will make you understand how important goal line play is in high school football. By the way, always have at least two 2 point plays practiced and prepared. In an emergency, you will have a way to score on fourth down and still have a 2 point play to win the game.
5) Crucial Penalties- The more penalties you have, the greater the chance that some of those penalties will be committed in crucial situations. Ever had a long run called back for a clip, a touchdown pass called back by an illegal procedure call or a roughing the kicker penalty extend a touchdown drive for the other team’s offense? Those would be crucial penalties, and many lost games can be traced back to your team committing one or more on a given play. It could be that the biggest play of the game for your team never occurs because of a crucial penalty. You must coach avoiding penalties. Know what situations that penalties occur (punt returns, 3rd and short defense, etc.) and coach your team to be disciplined. If you ignore it, it will cost you a big game down the line.
6) Poor Tackling- Blocking and tackling have always been important issues, but today talented teams are losing because they are not practicing tackling with enough time, skill and toughness at practice. Many teams have all but eliminated any live tackling at practice, even in early fall camp. Tackling drills are important. There are general tackling skills and also some position specific drills. There are also some teams that are using the latest contact rules as excuses for not teaching players proper tackling skills. Poor tackling will not only hurt your defense, it will lead to more explosive plays by the offense and more poor goal line plays. Get a tackling philosophy and teach it every day.
7) Lose Your Humility- If you ever think that your opponent has no chance to beat you, you are setting yourself up for a fall. There are more upset wins by underdogs because of a lack of mental preparation than for any other reason. Respect every opponent and prepare physically and mentally as hard as you can each week.
Coaches should set up practice to work to avoid these situational issues. If you can avoid these pitfalls, you just might find yourself ahead in an important game that gives you the biggest victory of the season. Remember- it is hard to win if you keep doing things that cause you to lose.