Wing-T has flown West Chester Rustin to Ches-Mont elite

WESTTOWN >> It’s hard to believe West Chester Rustin is only entering its 10th season.
The almost immediacy at which the Golden Knights established themselves as a mainstay in the District 1 postseason gives them the feel of the grizzled old vet instead of the area’s second youngest program.
In those nine seasons, Rustin has won at least eight games seven times, with the lone losing record (3-8) coming in their inaugural campaign with no seniors on the roster. Rustin and West Chester Henderson have played the most games in that span (107) out of any Ches-Mont League team, and much like the Warriors, who have the sixth-most wins (74) in the last 10 seasons, Rustin has become a force with consistency in coaching, scheme and production.
Opposing teams hardly have to scout Rustin, outside of new wrinkles and altered tendencies. The Golden Knights will walk on the field with a big line and try to run the wing-T offense right down the opponent’s throat.
Eighty-two times out of 107 it’s worked, and those 82 wins are more than any team in Chester County since Rustin’s inception, seven more than the next closest, Coatesville. While seemingly each of their core wing-T plays works efficiently, their power play has been the signature play in Mike St. Clair’s tenure as Rustin’s head coach.
“I think it allows a team to establish a running game where if you need to get two or three yards, most times you get two or three yards,” St. Clair said. “It allows us to keep the offense on the field and the other team’s offense off the field. It’s better to run one play well than to run 10 different plays just ok.”
While much of the American Division has struggled to establish a winning identity, St. Clair has demanded it from day one. Power has epitomized St. Clair’s vision, using a physical, ball-controlling offense to collect six division titles in nine years.
Rustin has been continuously blessed with big, talented linemen and game-changing running backs. Power is a perfect blend of strength and grace, with the backside wing back in the wing-T taking the handoff and following a fullback, who kicks out the defensive end, and a pulling backside guard, who leads through the hole.
St. Clair brought the wing-T to Rustin after coaching in the same system as an assistant at West Chester East under Joe Carroll. If there’s a knock on the scheme it’s that it can become predictable with motions often the tell. But when the play is done so well, and the talent matches, it’s rarely mattered if the defense knows where the ball’s going.
“It’s X’s and O’s, but the O’s come alive,” Unionville coach Pat Clark said. “When the O is Rondell White or Terry Loper, you have to try and tackle it. Rustin is a well-coached, very talented team and like any good program in the area, they all have an identity. “
White and Loper have made Rustin’s offense purr like no other backs have, with White leading the Knights to a District 1 Class AAA title in 2008 and Loper breaking White’s career rushing mark last fall.
Having a feature back has not hindered St. Clair’s offense, which is designed to use three backs. Instead, St. Clair has found ways to move his studs where they can get more touches, all while having solid program kids as changes of pace with trap, belly and counter.

Nate Heckenberger — 21st Century Media West Chester Rustin’s Adam Burke racked up 21 touchdowns in 2012 in the machine that is Rustin’s run game.
Nate Heckenberger — 21st Century Media
West Chester Rustin’s Adam Burke racked up 21 touchdowns in 2012 in the machine that is Rustin’s run game.

“When we’ve had the one feature back we can run our offense out of the I-formation and get the ball in his hands more often,” St. Clair said. “There’s always been enough downs to get a lot of different kids touches during a game and still focus on the premier running back.”
An added bonus of having players like Chase Hoyt and Sean Steinmetz pull and lead the way for Loper and White is how potent Rustin’s pass game becomes.
Only option teams, Kennett and Henderson, have thrown the ball less in the last five seasons than Rustin and yet Knights’ quarterbacks have been about as efficient as they come. In that span, Rustin’s starting QBs have thrown 67 touchdowns, with only 13 interceptions, and have averaged a league-high 18.8 yards per completion.
Those numbers are an absolute byproduct of the Knights’ ability to force extra defenders into the box, creating all kinds of space behind the defense.
“It helps establish counter and then once teams overplay power, we can throw playaction,” St. Clair said.
Ironically, Rustin’s most successful season in Class AAAA was largely thanks to an unexpected breakout season from wide receiver Anthony Nash in 2010 when the Knights fell to Neshaminy in the semifinals.
The Golden Knights have won 10 or more games in a season five times and have feasted on the weaker division, going 43-2 as a member of the Ches-Mont, losing only to Unionville.
There’s another star running back in the making, entering the 2015 season. If you want a chance to see him, follow the pulling guard and the fullback and he’ll likely be right behind. Tackling him, however, is a whole different story.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply