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The wishbone lives on in the MFL

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by Jason Salas

Guam - I'm going to go out on a limb and guesstimate that most Guam gridiron fans haven't mourned the passing of Emory Bellard. Even the most ardent football aficionados probably didn't take a moment and honor the man who led Texas A&M to three straight bowl game appearances and also enjoyed success at Mississippi State as head coach after his passing almost two full weeks ago.

It's no knock on the acumen of the local pigskin practitioner - at first glance, Coach Bellard's name admittedly isn't among the first that come up when discussing the greatest sideline generals in history. But his credentials, one of them in particular, lives on at all levels of football, especially here on the island in the Miller Football League.

In the late-1960s, an ambitious young offensive coordinator at Texas devised an innovative triple-option backfield that gets the fullback involved in a team's attack by lining him up as a lead man in a traditional pro set between two tailbacks. Such choice essentially keeps a defense guessing for who exactly gets the handoff and seals off the edges by paralyzing linebackers and defensive ends. The formation resulted became known throughout football as the wishbone, and it revolutionized offense.

And Bellard is properly attributed as being its architect.

I mention this with all due respect to the departed coach because of the impact his invention has had on the MFL. The DOCOMO Chargers ran a wishbone-based set as their bread-and-butter last season and continue to successfully leverage it this year. The Shell Hal's Angels, already stacked on offense, have begun running the wishbone this year, maximizing the speed and power effects it promotes. The Pepsi Warriors have used variations of it the past couple of years.

Offensive units love its simplicity and the madness it creates for the opposition. Hunkering tight ends get their jollies on being able to line up in the backfield and for once, get a running start before plowing into defensive linemen. Teams enjoy running the wishbone four, five or six plays in a row in a series, then quickly switching into a pro set or spread option and letting loose downfield.

For those who master it, the wishbone is fun to watch, produces results and moves the ball.

So look for the wishbone in all its glory the next time you attend an MFL game, watch a broadcast or stream a webcast. Its presence is firmly rooted in football on Guam, to the enjoyment of those who make use of it and for those of us who watch it. While the formation's inventor is no longer with us, his masterpiece is preserved. And everywhere football is played, Guam and abroad, the sport is better because Emory Bellard created it. 

Thank you, Coach.

 

When not penning his weekly column "MFL Rocks", Jason Salas can be found on weekends at Miller Football League games talking to so many imaginary friends he should be cast as the lead role in the sequel to A Beautiful Mind. Just don't get him started on the BCS.

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