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District 3 Football

'Grasping the Wing-T': How Boiling Springs football has made the vaunted offensive system its own program staple

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The Bubblers prepare for the 2021 season after a breakout campaign in 2020.

When Colin Lunde was first introduced to the Wing-T offense three years ago, he admitted it made him a little worried.

It would be a startling feeling for any freshman quarterback. First, because it was an offensive system he had never run at the middle school level. Second, the Wing-T is renowned for being a run-heavy offense, which meant fewer opportunities to throw the football.

Looking back on that day, the now-senior Boiling Springs quarterback realizes he had nothing to worry about. Fully grasping the concept of the multifaceted offense didn’t happen overnight, but Lunde, along with the rest of his teammates who have since grown in the Wing-T, haven’t looked back.

As senior fullback Aidan Metzger would put it, they’ve built their own identity in Bubbletown.

“I knew the high school was always lacking something, and whatever came out of our new offense, it kind of gave us the new opportunity to create a new name for ourselves,” Metzger said, “and gave us a new opportunity to present ourselves in a different way. It just allowed us to change how we play football.”

Prior to head coach Brad Zell’s arrival in 2018, the Bubblers ran a more traditional Power-I scheme. Zell and his assistants extracted knowledge of the Wing-T from their time at Cumberland Valley, working under late head coach Tim Rimpfel, whose Eagle program set the standard in the Midstate with the vaunted offense for over 20 years.

It took some time for the Bubblers to find their footing in the new offensive scheme, enduring 1-9 and 0-10 seasons in the first two years of the Zell regime. But the offense began to forge its identity last season, which included a 4-2 record and a trip to the District 3 playoffs, the Bubblers’ first since 2015. This year, while using the Wing-T, the Bubblers have flourished — and punished opposing defenses — across Boiling Springs’ 12-game tilt.

The punishing play has the Bubblers mining for district gold on the road Saturday in the district Class 3A championship game against undefeated and No. 1-seeded Wyomissing.

“It’s kind of like your own kids. When you have kids and they succeed at something and really take to it and understand it and enjoy it and you see them progressing through it, it’s pretty cool,” Zell said. “It makes me smile.

“It’s a lot like teaching,” he said. “When you teach, that’s your main goal, is you want kids to progress and to make improvements, and these guys have done it. They’ve made a lot of improvements. And their confidence level is just so much higher than it was before.”

HS Football: Boiling Springs rushes past Big Spring behind reliable run game

Why the Wing-T?

The Wing-T offense is not for every program. And in Boiling Springs’ 2018 and 2019 campaigns, one could argue it didn’t seem to be the Bubblers’ niche, either. But through determination and the hunger to fine-tune their offense, the Bubblers began to turn the corner last fall and have broken through this season.

“Coach Rimpfel always used to say that it takes four years to build a program,” Zell said, “and he was right. It started to click.”

What makes the Wing-T so lethal and mind-boggling to defenses is its ability to cue misdirection, which can prompt defenders to go away from where the ball actually is. The other key cog to a successful Wing-T is having the correct set of players that match the style of the system. The Wing-T isn’t usually suited for a pocket passer, but rather for a quarterback that displays agility as well as the ability to throw accurately on the run.

It also fits the mold for an assembly of tailbacks.

In the Bubblers case, they check all the boxes. Lunde presents the build of a “perfect Wing-T quarterback,” according to Zell, while Metzger and Menke, along with additional back Jack Laing, bring their own unique approaches. In other words, they provide Boiling Springs with its own one-two-three punch.

“It makes calling plays much easier when you have three guys that have their ability,” Zell said, “and not just their ability, but they are completely bought in to the team, and they don’t care who has the ball or who’s getting more carries or who’s getting more touchdowns. They just want to win. It makes my job pretty easy.”

And don’t forget about the offensive line.

In a sense, the o-line is the heartbeat of the Wing-T. Much like the quarterback position, the guys in the trenches are required to have some agility stowed in their collective tank.

Senior tackle Hunter Coyle bears the most experience of the Bubblers front-line outfit, but Zell credits his other four linemen for grasping the ins and outs of the Wing-T quickly. Zell said Dalton Ackley has been the anchor of the o-line all season.

“We’re scoring almost 40 points a game, if not more, and I’m still on them every week about, ‘Hey, we’re not staying on blocks. We’re not driving our feet,’ and they don’t really say anything,” Zell said. “They just go back to work, and they take, I think, a lot of pride in that.”

Saturday’s showdown

Boiling Springs draws a Wyomissing team that could be considered its mirror image for Saturday’s District 3 Class 3A championship bout. The Spartans, led by head coach Bob Wolfrum, are no stranger to the Wing-T, a scheme they’ve run since the late 1980s. Under the 35-year skipper’s direction, Wyomissing has blasted its opposition to the tune of seven district titles and 16 consecutive trips to the postseason since 2006.

The Bubblers carry the experience of facing the powerhouse Spartans last fall, a district semifinal contest they dropped 47-7. Wyomissing took advantage of Boiling Springs’ collective playoff inexperience, overwhelming and thrashing Boiling Springs to post 27 first-half points en route to the 40-point victory.

Boiling Springs stamped its ticket to Saturday’s clash with a 56-10 quarterfinal win over Lancaster Catholic and a 35-7 semifinal triumph against Hamburg.

“Being the first playoff game since 2015, it was a little big for us,” Lunde said of last year’s playoff appearance. “I think now having two playoff wins under our belt, I think we’re going to be coming in a lot calmer and more collected as a team.”

Metzger and Menke, both linebackers for the Bubblers, cited the speed and patience of Wyomissing as the main challenges when it comes to defending the back-to-back district champs. Zell said Wyomissing’s size also plays a key role. But if the Bubblers can play their brand of defense, which also includes patience, they like their chances Saturday.

Patience will be a tough ask of Boiling Springs against a Spartan offense that’s averaging 44.9 points per game this fall. The Bubblers can also light the fuse offensively, averaging 43.5 points per game themselves, which includes a clip of seven 40-plus point games.

“You just have to stay disciplined,” Metzger said. “That’s one of the major things, is you just have to trust that everybody else does their job right and fills their gap and shuts what they need to down.”

The Bubblers also aim to re-write their fate from last year through tranquility and the collective bond they share.

“It was definitely a different experience for all of us,” Menke said. “This year, we already have two wins, especially last game. It was 7-7 at halftime, and we came out and scored 28 points. So, we know what it’s like to stay calm and believe in what we do. I can see everyone’s believing, and I think we’re ready to play on Saturday because we really want that gold.”

Christian Eby is a sports reporter for The Sentinel and cumberlink.com. You can contact him at ceby@cumberlink.com and follow him on Twitter at: @eby_sports

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