Monthly Archives: June 2015

Razorbacks vs. Albershausen Crusaders.

Razorbacks vs. Alb 2 #2Offensive coordinators fall into two categories; those who establish the running game to set up the pass and those who use the passing game to set up the run. Both methods can be successful, as long as the defense respects that you can hurt them in the air and on the ground. As an offensive line coach, I’ve always been a run-first guy. Through our first six games, this strategy worked very well. Not only have we run the ball effectively, but when defenses over-commit to stopping the ground game, we’ve been outstanding in the air.
Sunday afternoon, against the Albershausen Crusaders, we finally faced a defensive front good enough to take us out of our original plan.
On our first possession it seemed we would be able to continue to as we have all year. A 40-yard touchdown run by quarterback Garret Coleo and we were quickly in front 7-0. From there however, things got tough. The Crusader defense stiffened and our next three possessions stalled.
Things have probably been too easy for us. We’ve mostly played opponents who couldn’t stop our passing or running games. Our execution Sunday was not where I like it but the Crusaders deserve a lot of credit. They played well up front and the holes we’re used to seeing weren’t there.
Thankfully, we have other weapons. Our defense played very well, giving us the time to find our stride. I’m a run-oriented coach, but I’ve inherited a passing game that is likely the best in the league. With strong receivers who run good routes and rarely drop a ball and a quarterback with great touch, who makes great reads, we showed we can be a pass-to-set-up-the-run team.
Early in the 2nd, we put together a six play (five passes) drive to go up 14-0. On our next possession, we stayed in the air, Coleo hit Micki Mayer on a 38 yard post on 4th and 12 to give us a 21-0 lead going into the half. After the break, we continued trying to run, with limited success, but continued to throw well, scoring on another pass to Mayer to take a 28-0 lead early in the third. Finally, our strong passing game did set up the run, a touchdown on a 30-yard draw to Steve Spagnuolo.
Coleo was 16/23 with three touchdown passes and one run. With the win, we are now 7-0 and have clinched a playoff spot.Razorbacks vs. Alb 2 #1
My pre-game talk was about the up and downs we’d likely see against this tough defense. I told the team we’d have poor plays and not to panic and let miscues snowball into a larger problem. We did this several weeks ago, in Pforzheim.
As the offensive coordinator, I’m proud our offense never lost out composure or finger-pointed when we had trouble early, but found other ways to be successful.
As the offensive line coach, however, I’m disappointed we couldn’t impose our will on Albershausen’s defense. I’m sure our receivers and quarterback are great with how we put 35 points on the scoreboard… Don’t worry guys, when we have to, we can always do it again, but a tiger can’t change his stripes.
(If that doesn’t translate into German, ask me and I’ll tell you what it means.)

Razorbacks vs. Alb 2 #3

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Razorbacks vs.Kaiserslautern Pikes

freiburg #4It isn’t often a coach more proud of how a team plays after building a commanding lead than how they got there, but against the Kaiserslautern Pikes, I was most impressed with our performance with a 36-0 lead.
In our previous game, we had jumped ahead by a large margin before limping to the finished. It was important for us to show we could play four good quarters.
An interesting challenge of European football is that rosters are rarely the same week to week. Unlike in the US, football here played is by grown men with other priorities. Sometimes these priorities (business trips, families, school) are legitimate reasons to miss practices and games. Some reasons are not so valid… but that’s another subject. For various reasons, we went to Kaiserslautern without our top receiver and only one running back. Worse, several of the receivers we did have were less than healthy.
Andreas Lo Meo ruptured his Achilles tendon in February and was supposed to be done for the year. Phillip Schaber had retired a month ago, after being told he may need surgery for a hip injury. In a perfect world neither would have played, but both agreed to suit up and split time to fill out our roster.
With a 36-0 lead at the half, we were comfortably going to win. In this situation, the goals change.
We have things to work on for upcoming games; we need to get our starting running back off the field, so as not to risk injury. Most important, we need to show we can play four good quarters of football.
We would throw on our entire first series. (With this lead, it’s bad form to throw after the first possession and we needed to work our air game.) This drive was almost perfectly executed. Starting on our own 20, we ran six plays, with five completions to four receivers including two to Schaber The drive culminated with an outstanding 15 yard pass to Lo Meo in the left corner of the end zone.
Our next series, we used converted LB, Dennis Schmidt at running back and Coach Leo Grenz at tight end. After flubbing the 1st play, we put together a time-consuming, ten play drive, with Schmidt pounding it in from the one to finish the scoring; 50-0 Razorbacks.
It was a satisfying win, but I must caution our players against being too satisfied. We now enter our toughest stretch of the season. Our next three games are against our top three opponents in the Regionalliga Mitte. To reach our ultimate goal we have to play better. We got away with some sloppy play against Kaiserslautern early, mistakes that could bury us against tougher teams.

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A Day With the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns

Appenzel and Schwabish Hall 018There are two paths to success for the elite of European football; building it or buying it. Countries limit the number of North American players, but without deep infrastructures, many top teams import talented Europeans to fill out much of their rosters. I won’t judge a program for how it climbs the ladder, but it’s great to see that the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns, Europe’s top-ranked team, got there the old-fashioned way, by building it.
Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Schwabisch Hall and watch the undefeated Unicorns practice. That I was going to see something different became apparent as soon as I arrived. Unlike the soccer fields most practice on, this team uses an actual FOOTBALL field, artificial turf, with dominant football lines, a filming tower at the 50 and a latter for end zone filming situated at the correct height.
The practice itself was something I haven’t seen since leaving the States. There is no standing around, it’s a low-tempo pregame practice, but there’s never a moment when everyone is on “break”. From warm-ups through the end of the scripted team/offense/defense/special-teams run-through things move quickly. Activities are consistently changing, creating natural breaks for everyone to get a drink on this hot day. The team is very impressive as well. Position players seem to be in good condition. 38 players participate and I’m told this is a lower number than usual. Still, there are enough to fill the special teams, personnel groups and scout teams, something rarely true at European practices. Nine coaches are working; all have specific and well-designed roles. Afterwards-as they do after every practice- the staff meets in a restaurant above the game field, to discuss personnel and other organizational issues.
I notice almost all coaching and meetings are in English. This is the first I’ve heard this over here. Coach Sigi tells me that when Americans are involved English is always used. The Germans all know the language, and he wants everyone included and able to participate in discussions.
What I see is a little humbling for me as a coach. I’m proud of what we’re doing in Ravensburg, but I must admit that the best Razorback practice looks nothing like what I saw in Schwabisch Hall. The Razorbacks state goal is eventually to climb to the first division, and this reminds me we still have a long way to go before we’re ready.
That said, I recognize that what Coach Seigfried Gehrke built did not happen overnight. Coach Sigi has been the Unicorn head coach for 25 years and his program is built on a solid foundation of outstanding coaching and an excellent youth program, providing nearly all the non-import players.
A consistent theme of my coaching philosophy is that, in football, more than any other sport a team gets what it deserves. The team putting in more collective man-hours almost always wins. By this measure, the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns deserve to be where they are. They’ve earned their current success by paying the price for 25 years.
That football success is most often earned through hard work and commitment is what makes this the greatest sport on earth in my opinion. It’s gratifying to see that this formula works the same way in Germany as it does in the States.
While the Razorbacks are earning our successes in Germany, we still have far to go if we want to rise to the GFL 1. This is right and fair. We do not yet deserve to be there…but that doesn’t mean we never will.

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The culture of German Football, Sports and Hobbies.

Razorbacks vs. Wilddogs 3“Our goal for American football in Germany is that someday, tens of thousands will play and it will be a sport where people can take their families.” This quote from our head coach, Thomas Miller describes a major difference between the role of sports in Germany and America. For most Americans, football is a spectator sport. Few of the fans filling college and NFL stadiums ever wore pads, those who have, mostly hung them up as teenagers. In the US, football is successful because Americans watch it. In Germany success will be determined by the number of people who play.
US football is going in two opposite directions. Concussion fears has led to dropping participation while, at the same time, the sport has never enjoyed higher ratings and attendance, dominating all other sports and popular culture in North America.
Football will never approach this dominant position in German culture. But for Germans, sport is less entertainment and more a ‘hobby’. Hobbies are something I often hear discussed in Germany. First, I assumed the importance of this word in the German lexicon was just a translation fluke. But I’ve learned it has significance in how Germans approach leisure time. Germans have more free time than most Americans. Every week seems to hold a national holiday. Most Germans have an additional month off from their jobs (its two-weeks for most Americans.)  More important than the free time, is how its used.
“When we’re children, we’re expected to find a sporting hobby or take up a musical instrument. Most do a sport.” There is an amazing variety of physical and outdoor hobbies seen on nice days in Germany. Bicycles fill the many bike paths lining the highways. Mountain bikes, road bikes, older people on bikes with electric motors to help on the hills. Also on two-wheels are bike gymnastics and bikes/scooters/rollerblades & skateboards at the numerous skate parks in every town. Sharing the paths with the bikes are Nordic walkers (hiking with ski poles, usually done by late-middle aged women.) Groups of people jog together, ride motorcycles together and do stretches in public parks. By train tracks, plots are rented to hobbyist gardeners. Every town seems to have a public climbing wall, a skate park, a roller hockey rink, beach volleyball courts, clay tennis courts and a dog park with dog obstacles. The team sports; Soccer is everywhere but team handball, soccer on bikes, even American baseball can be found.
I recently asked a local how many he thinks regularly participate in some physical hobby in Germany. He estimated 80-90%, a number that fits what I see. Certainly exercise numbers in Germany are much higher than in the US. Except that so many smoke like chimneys and like their beer, Germans have very healthy lifestyles.
Where does football fit into the picture? Somewhere between soccer and basketball would be my guess. One of our linemen said football drew him because it was a hobby for big men; unusual in Germany, where big boys were often told that sports weren’t for them before football. I’m biased, but football has a lot to recommend it. No other sport has so many varied roles or demands such teamwork. No other sport demands as much collective discipline and organization, traits that fit the German character well. Several Germans told me they worry about physical toughness in German society, a necessary trait in football.
The goal of the German football community isn’t to rival soccer as a national passion, but to make football a viable option among many; an activity where men of all shapes and sizes can come together as a team and provide great entertainment for friends and families.

Red Knights Camp 003

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Razorbacks vs. Wilddogs rematch

Razorbacks vs. Wilddogs 4The rematch between the Ravensburg Razorbacks and the Pforzheim Wilddogs started out well for the Razorbacks. I’d been worried about a letdown against an improved Wilddog team and during the first half it looked like my concern had been unjustified. The Razorback offense scored on our first four possessions and added a fifth touchdown to take a 34-6 into the half.
During the second half the Wilddogs showed impressive fight and we had the letdown I’d feared. We lost focus and started making uncharacteristic mistakes. An interception on the second play quickly led to a Wilddog score. Our next possession started well, but stalled when we missed a few blocks and dropped pass on 3rd down. A missed field goal, ‘Dogs responded and cut into our lead again, 34-20. Next series; after another promising start, we misaligned one play, missed a pass on another and mistakenly snapped the ball on a third. Again, Pforzheim responded with a long drive cutting the score to 34-28 as time ran out.
All told, we had 14 offensive plays during the second half…and zero points. As disappointing as we were offensively, our defense had some major lapses as well, allowing the Wilddogs to convert on many 3rd and 4th downs. Pforzheim deserves a lot of credit for fighting until the end, but we had it in our power to finish the job and could not get it done.
When you win 61-3, as we did last week, you feel invincible. In reality, even such dominating performances can be build on shaky foundations. Lack of depth, poor execution and inexperience can cause things to quickly fall apart. We are as good as we want to be. If we carry out assignments and do little things right, we are fine. When we let the opponent, the score, or the officials distract us, bad things can quickly happen. This was a lesson our players needed to learn. If we handle this right, this experience may be the best thing that could have happened for us.

Razorbacks vs. Phorzheim 2 #1

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