In Play with Tom Markowski


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Howell switches offenses, adapts to personnel with positive results

By: Tom Markowski, September 13, 2015, 5:47 pm



Howell – Aaron Metz used to be an I-formation guy. Give the ball to your hard-charging tailback, give him a lead blocker and let him pick his hole.

Not anymore.

What started as an experiment last season at Howell is now a finished product. Metz is in his eighth season as Howell’s head coach and he’s running an offense that’s a mixture of old and new.

Metz will open the game in a single wing, an offense that dates back to the 1940s, and switched to the spread offense complete with five receivers and an empty backfield. Sometimes Metz will stick with the single wing, as he did in the opener against Monroe, or he’ll favor the spread, as he did last Friday against Hartland.

It all depends on the team Howell plays and what that defense is willing to give up. Stick with a four-man front and a cover two in the secondary and Metz will likely run the single wing. Bring the safeties up and he’ll go to the spread.

So far so good for the Highlanders as they are 3-0, 1-0 in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West Division. Howell faces Pinckney (0-3) next.

Metz is old school. He played for coach Al Fracassa at Birmingham Brother Rice. But even Fracassa was known to have a trick or two up his sleeve. Last year Metz went to a single wing clinic and liked what he saw.

According to Metz the single wing is a natural progression from the I-formation. A big difference is with the single wing you have an extra blocker. Unlike in the single wing, the quarterback isn’t used as a blocker in the I-formation.

Avoiding the technical aspects of this offense, Metz will put two backs in the backfield behind each guard. One will receive the direct snap. That back is usually junior Joey Gossett, who rushed for 130 yards in the second game against Westland John Glenn. The other back is another junior, Ryan Brennan, who is the quarterback but is used as the fullback in this set.

When Howell goes to the spread Brett Chaperon is the quarterback. At 5-10 and 150 pounds, Chaperon doesn’t possess an exceptionally strong arm but he is accurate. In Howell’s 45-27 victory over Hartland Chaperon was 10of-19 for 300 yards. Against Monroe Chaperon was 4-of-7 for 200 yards. Senior receiver Trevor Wetzel is averaging a whopping 50 yards per catch.

There aren’t any Division I prospects at Howell. Metz said his team plays “blue-collar” football. His players, particularly this senior class, are a no-nonsense group. And Metz has been willing to adapt to his personnel and to the players who are in his program. He said his players like the new offenses. It’s more fun for them. Metz said he’s has five dependable receivers and a quarterback (Chaperon) who’s a competitor. Chaperon also plays basketball and baseball, and Metz said this aspect, a multi-sport athlete, helps Chaperon mentally. The experience of being in other competitive situations helps his decision-making abilities as a quarterback.

“There is a system to what we’re doing,” Metz said. “I’ve followed other programs like (Rob) Zimmerman at DeWitt and, first and foremost, you must play good defense. Plus you have to have an offensive system.”

Football is a tough, physical sport and those who play it must have fun playing it or else the game will wear you down. Right now those at Howell are having so much fun they can hardly contain their joy.