2017 brought an undefeated championship season to Tom Verbanic and Flint Hill
by Jim McGrath, recruitNoVA
When Flint Hill coach Tom Verbanic was winning state championships as the coach at Westfield High School, his combined teams (Varsity, JV, and freshman) routinely topped 200 players. That tended to be one of the benefits to come from heading a winning program.
As he transitioned from the public to private school ranks, however, Verbanic learned that success doesn’t always equate to a growing number of personnel.
Part of the reason for his current low numbers is that Flint Hill, as a private school, has no direct middle school feeder.
As Verbanic said after the presentation, “most of our in-school recruiting comes from word of mouth, parents of players and people who have seen our team.” Even the coach is pressed for time to push his program, as Verbanic doubles as the Huskies baseball coach during the spring, a position that makes it problematic to overseeing the football team’s off-season weight lifting program.
In spite of his situation, the coach has learned some lessons about doing more with less, and he was happy to share his wisdom with a group of coaches two weekends ago at the Nike Coach of the Year clinic, held at the Dulles Westin in Herndon, VA.
Flint Hill finished their 2017 season undefeated with an 11-0 record and the VISAA Division I state championship. Yet, as Verbanic told the group, the Huskies only had 28 players, leaving many to play on both sides of the ball, and sometimes special teams as well. While the lack of personnel caused problems in games, it also made practices difficult.
This led the coach to develop a new philosophy, reading like a mission statement and consisting of eight separate statements that include phrases such as – “we don’t have many, but we have what we need,” “we must practice hard but be fresh for games,” and “we must find a way to use every player in some way.”
Verbanic’s routine now focuses on eight different drills, including three for special teams, a set up drill for O-line and RB’s, and a mesh drill. The purpose of the mesh is to work on snaps, handoffs and ball security. As noted by Verbanic, “I hate fumbles, I just hate them,” but he was proud to announce that the Huskies only suffered two fumble losses in 11 games this season.
Because of the preparations that players must make to play offense and defense, Verbanic is forced to keep his schemes simple. He gave an example of the “wristband,” a series of ten plays that define what certain players must do with one simple word.
For example, the number 6 play is SNAG…SPACE…CORNER, and this gives the formation, and directs the receiver’s routes.
Sometimes, it’s good for a busy coach to catch a lucky break and Verbanic has one on special teams.
“We have a Division I kicker (Justin Duenkel) and he put 62 of 80 kickoffs out of the end zone.”
That’s one way to simplify the scheme on special teams!
– Jim McGrath