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San Diego High School Football Preview : 'Gun and Run' Offense Synonymous With Success at Fallbrook

September 25, 1987|CHRIS DE LUCA

FALLBROOK — People have tried to duplicate it, defend it and even describe it, but the Fallbrook High offense is seemingly impossible to figure out.

It has more than 100 plays, stocked with audibles, shotguns, split formations and screens. It must be tough to memorize all of that.

Thank goodness for playbooks.

"Forget a playbook," Fallbrook Coach Tom Pack said. "No playbooks. Kids aren't going to look at playbooks. They're going to leave them in lockers and they are going to leave them all around."

And that's the way it has been for the past seven years at Fallbrook. In 1980, Pack, with the help of retired coach Jack Neumeier, developed a passing offense that has left opponents both envious and frustrated.

Neumeier calls it the "gun and run." In its most basic form, the quarterback takes the snap, takes one step back and guns the ball to his receiver, who does the running.

Each receiver has a number, and the field is separated into numbered lanes. These numbers make it easier to call and memorize the plays. The coaches and the players read the defense, call the play to the open area and throw the pass.

Who needs a playbook?

The plays are constantly changing according to the defense, so a playbook would quickly become obsolete.

And the results have been quite good. Since Fallbrook implemented the offense in 1980, its record is 45-14-2, it has made five trips to the playoffs and it won the 1986 San Diego Section 3-A title.

Importance is placed on passing, although Fallbrook has the ability to run with speedy tailback Aaron Tapia. In its 34-7 victory last week over San Marcos, Fallbrook threw 38 times and ran 14.

"The idea is to toss the ball and run with it," Neumeier said. "Don't hand the ball and run with it, toss the ball and run with it. All it is, is an extension of a handoff."

Sounds simple, but there's more to it, such as the audibles, shotguns, split formations . . .

"Basically, it's the ability to take five guys who can catch the ball and find out where the weakest defensive person is, if there's one, and there usually is one," Pack said. "And we try to attack and take advantage of that guy.

"It takes a long time for a kid to (learn) it."

It's a year-round process at Fallbrook. Freshman players are indoctrinated into the program from their first day out. In the spring, quarterbacks and receivers are enrolled in a physical education class run by Pack that works on the fundamentals of the offense.

"It's really difficult to explain to people," Neumeier said. "Kids learn their individual things bit by bit. If you came up to some of these kids and said, 'Hey, this is our offense,' they would go out of their minds and say they can't do it.

"It becomes simple when you teach it out on the field. But if you run out and explain it on a blackboard, the players would go crazy."

Neumeier developed the offense in 1970 while at Granada Hills High in the San Fernando Valley. His teams were traditionally outmatched offensively, and Neumeier had to find some alternative. The first year Granada Hills used the offense, it won the Los Angeles City Section 4-A title, and it advanced to the playoffs each year thereafter.

One of Granada Hills' most notable quarterbacks was John Elway, who came to Neumeier as an aspiring running back in the late 1970s.

In 1980, Neumeier decided to retire, move to Fallbrook and build a house. He ended up building a new offense for Fallbrook, which was suffering in much the same way that Granada Hills was in 1970.

"I can remember the first time we ran this offense," said Pack, who asked Neumeier for help in 1980 after he had tried everything from running to passing to tossing his clipboard in frustration. "We ran a scrimmage against Oceanside, came out and threw the ball 30 times and ran it only three. People were saying, 'You're nuts. Are you going to do that this year?' "

Fallbrook did and went 8-2.

Since then, Pack and Neumeier have developed the "gun and run" into a routine at Fallbrook. And the players have accepted it.

"They don't have a hard time learning the plays, they have a hard time learning the concepts," Pack said.

Said Darrow Nelson, the county's top receiver--12 receptions for 212 yards and two touchdowns: "When I was a sophomore, it was real hard. I would sit back and try and learn it. But when I got to junior varsity, it was like second nature. If you sit back and try and watch it all of the time, you won't get it. You have to be in there playing it."

Well, almost. Senior quarterback Mike Turiace entered the season with five quarters of game experience. He had been the backup to Scott Barrick, the state's all-time leading single-season passer, who threw for 3,503 yards in 1986.

When Barrick graduated and headed for San Diego State, Fallbrook figured to be rebuilding.

Pack knew that would be the thinking. But he never worried.

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