Upper Dublin, Bayard Rustin ready for matchup

WESTTOWN — Remember the Delaware Wing-T formation?

Back in the 1980s and 90s it was the systeme de rigueur in scholastic football, as coaches found it was the perfect formation to both cover for a lack of size and to feature any player the staff chose to feature.

It seemed every team was using the Wing-T, or at least utilizing many of its principles.

Fast forward to today when high school football seems to be all no-huddle spreads and zone reads and running as many plays in as short a period of time as possible. And the Wing-T is largely passe.

But some squads haven’t forgotten about the Wing-T, and some still run it to perfection.

Enter Bayard Rustin, a scholastic football program not only running the Wing-T, but running its opponents over with it.

Gifted with a very big and very talented offensive line and a senior running back who cranks out 200-yard games with the ease of falling off the proverbial log, the Golden Knights (10-1) have bulldozed their way into the PIAA District One Class AAAA playoff quarterfinals with all of the subtlety of a cannonball dive into the midst of a synchronized swim routine.

The Knights tend to line up with smoke streaming out of their collective nostrils, give the ball to senior running back Terry Loper, the school’s all-time leading rusher, and wait for the scoreboard to change.

It has looked that simple, and it is what has the Upper Dublin coaching staff burning the midnight oil this week as it prepares for Friday’s quarterfinal contest (7:00 at Bayard Rustin High School.

How, exactly, do you stop the irresistible force?

“They’re big and physical up front, and they get off the ball,’ said Cardinals head coach Bret Stover, whose team must find some way to slow the Rustin stampede. “They’re very efficient in what they do, and they’ve been able to dictate the flow of the game.

“They run the Wing-T, old school, they’re bigger than (Plymouth Whitemarsh) up front and No. 5 (Loper) keeps running for 50- and 60-yard touchdowns. He can go on any play.’

But while Stover is having perpetual nightmares about the Golden Knights offense, the same could be said of Rustin head coach Mike St. Clair, who has been impressed with what he’s seen of the Cardinals.

“I see a team that’s well-coached, a defense that flies to the football and an offense that is multi-faceted,’ St. Clair said. “They run as well as they throw, and they’re a tough matchup.’

With both coaches acknowledging their concerns, the contest figures to be decided by the matchup between the Cardinals defense and the Knights offense.

Opponents of Rustin have tried to disrupt the Knights continuity, have tried to make them throw the football, but few have been successful.

Stover acknowledged that if the Cardinals cannot find a way to slow down the run game, they could be in for a very long night.

“They like to run behind the tight end and tackle,’ Stover said, “and the tackle (Ray Bordley) is big and physical. We’ve worked against it in practice, but we can’t replicate a lot of what they do, especially the pace.’

“What we like about the Wing-T is that it allows you to be a finesse team or a power team,’ St. Clair said. “This year, we happen to have big kids, so we’re a running team.

“And (Loper) has the capability of taking it 80 yards on any given down.’

The obvious strategy for the Knights would be to pound on the Cardinals defense, which has been called many things, except large.

But St. Clair doesn’t think that is as big an advantage as it would appear.

“(Upper Dublin) reminds me a lot of those old Ridley teams,’ the coach said. “They’re tough and tenacious, and size doesn’t matter when you play like they do.’

St. Clair said the Cardinals offense is equally potent, if not one-dimensional.

“They do so many things well,’ he said. “They have a very good quarterback (Ryan Stover) and skill kids who can run and catch the ball. They have the whole package.’

Still, as the clock ticks down toward the start of the game, the package that seems to have the most bearing on the result is the large package named Loper, who has to be contained.

“We have to get them off what they want to do,’ Stover said. “We can’t sit back and allow that to happen.’

“I’m sure (Upper Dublin) is going to try and stop the run,’ St. Clair said. “We haven’t had to throw the ball very much, but we’re confident in our quarterback (Evan Wlock) and our passing game.’

If the Cardinals see a lot of that passing game, it could mean they’ve attained their goal. If not, it could mean the Knights have ground up another foe, and Upper Dublin’s magical season could be a fait accompli.

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