Wellborn, Spring Garden proving Wing-T versatile, dangerous offense
by Brandon Miller
bmiller@annistonstar.com
Nov 08, 2012 | 4063 views |  0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Wellborn’s Kevin Mixon has been a huge part of coach Jeff Smith’s Wing-T offense this season, gaining 1,183 yards on the ground. (Photo by Stephen Gross)
Wellborn’s Kevin Mixon has been a huge part of coach Jeff Smith’s Wing-T offense this season, gaining 1,183 yards on the ground. (Photo by Stephen Gross)
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The Wing-T offense is the Chevrolet small-block V-8 of football. You can make it fit into anything.

Class 6A football? Current Wellborn coach Jeff Smith proved it could be done when he was at Hueytown.

And all the way down to Class 1A football, Jason Howard is getting it done this season at Spring Garden.

Both coaches have made those offenses run like finely tuned machines, behind the horsepower of a strong running game. As the Alabama High School Athletic Association playoffs get under way tonight, that offense has powered them to feats nobody else in the area has accomplished.

Each team has not just one, but a pair of rushers who have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark, a feat only 15 players in the area accomplished.

At Wellborn, it’s Chantz Goodman and Kevin Mixon, who have 1,427 and 1,183 yards respectively.

At Spring Garden, it’s Forrest Livingston, the area’s second leading rusher with 1,586 yards, and backfield mate Tyler Morgan with 1,221 yards more.

While when running effectively, it can produce gaudy numbers, that’s not what Smith said makes it attractive to him.

“What I like so much about it is it’s such a team-oriented offense,” Smith said. “You don’t rely on one person and can give several people the ball. You can take a lesser offensive lineman — what I mean by that is smaller — and still win.

“At the schools I’ve coached at, I’ve never had those big offensive linemen, so we’ve had to pull and do traps and things like that.”

Hosting Horseshoe Bend tonight, Smith will use that 1-2 punch of Goodman and Mixon, but he can deliver two more solid body shots with quarterback Judd Smith and fullback Landon Machristie, who have combined for more than 1,000 yards, as well.

“It’s not just us, it’s the line,” Mixon said. “A lot of times (opponents) think if you can stop the key player, you can stop the team. But with us, we have multiple threats and a lot of good players on the team. You can’t just key in on one of us. All of us have talent and are well-coached.”

With the success Smith has seen this year from his offense, it compares to his 2001 team at Ohatchee, which went 10-2 and had two first-team All-State players.

At Spring Garden, the complementary style of play is what has caused success for Livingston and Morgan. With Livingston playing the role of the physical, inside runner, Morgan has the speed to rack up big yards on the outside.

“If anybody starts to stack it inside to stop Forrest, it allows Tyler to get to the edge,” Howard said. “At the same time, if you widen the defense out, it allows Forrest to get a seam up the middle.

“And a lot of it depends on our quarterback, Will Ivey. We don’t necessarily go up to the line with the play called. He’s sort of responsible, because if they stack that gap, then he needs to audible us and get us into a play that looks like it will work. He does a really good job of that.”

But, as with Wellborn, the Wing-T is all about good blocking and playing traditional football.

“Basically our line has stepped up a lot this year,” Livingston said. “They’re doing a great job out front, they’re doing all the dirty work and they don’t get recognized for any of it. They’re doing a great job opening holes and just getting us where we need to be.

“The whole Spring Garden foundation starts with the Wing-T. We know we’re going to have to go out and run as hard as we can because that’s what we do, that’s what we’ve always done.”

Coming off back-to-back 2-8 seasons and with Howard back on the sideline after coaching Ohatchee the past two years, the Panthers started the season with a school-best 6-0 record and are in the postseason for the first time since 2009.

“All around it’s a great feeling,” Morgan said. “We’re glad to be here and we’re glad to still be practicing, all of it.”

Running similar formations since middle school and with the first round of the playoffs starting tonight, the four 1,000-plus yard rushers will look to continue having success playing the style of football their schools are traditionally known for.

“It’s part of us now,” Goodman said. “We can’t live without it.”

Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.