There may not be an offensive play more commonly used in high school football than some variation of the screen pass.
Screens are the most carnivorous plays in football, designed simply to get whatever can be gotten, be it five yards and out of bounds, or 65 yards and six points. It makes sense to get the ball to the team’s best play-maker as quick as possible with as few defenders around as possible: this is the fundamental aim of the three most basic screen passes, the fast, the bubble and the tunnel.
(Check out the videos below explaining each of the three plays.)
“The screen is more about who you’re throwing to than who’s blocking or how they block for them,” said Northwestern wide receivers coach Page Wofford. “The screen is a very good play because it gets him the ball in space, with blocking, and all he has to do is do what comes natural to him after that.”
Watch a high school football game in The Herald’s coverage area and you’ll likely see the two teams combine to run at least 10 screens, sometimes more.
Offensive play-callers look for certain things from the defense before they call screens. A defense that’s crowding the line of scrimmage may get hit with a fast screen out by the sideline, while a defense that’s rushing the passer with its front line but dropping deep in the secondary might get hit with a tunnel screen to take advantage of the open grass in between (i.e. the tunnel).
“For us the bubble screen and the fast screen are integral parts because we can use that to take advantage of defenses that are built to stop the run,” said South Pointe offensive coordinator Jason McManus. “We treat them as outside run plays where we can get our play-makers in space, get it out there really, really fast, and it’s been good for us.”
Wide receiver blocking is a skill that is in much higher demand in the last 10 years because of the screen game. Wofford said that Trojan receivers that don’t block don’t get in the game. Good blockers on the edge can be just as valuable as those catching the ball and making the cuts.
When a screen works, the simplicity is beautiful. A clean pass and catch, a teammate blocks the most dangerous defender and the receiver makes a move, probably one he’s made thousands of times in his football life, before bursting into open space.
“We’re really just trying to get some easy yards,” said York offensive coordinator Knox Baggett. “Football can get really complicated if we make it, but we’re really just trying to find easy things.”
The three most common screen passes in high school football are:
York’s Ladarius Allison is one of the most dangerous players in the area on a fast screen, a play that Cougars’ offensive coordinator Knox Baggett likes to call. Baggett explained the basics of the fast screen, probably the most simple and commonly called screen pass in high school football, in this video:
The bubble screen is, along with the fast screen, the most basic of screen passes. But when run with players of South Pointe’s caliber, a very simple play can pay huge dividends. Stallions offensive coordinator Jason McManus explained what he wants his players to do when catching a bubble screen and when he likes to call the play:
Many of the more complex screen passes aren’t used at the high school level very often. The tunnel screen is more complicated than the fast or bubble screens, but can be a devastating play, especially for the Northwestern Trojans. Wide receivers coach Page Wofford explained the foundation of the play, one that has put Trojans like Cordarrelle Patterson, Dupree Hart and Jamario Holley on a platform to shine: