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Bread-and-butter plays stand test of time

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Greg Perry estimates that if his Seton-La Salle Rebels throw 25 passes a game, Lightning Slant 30 is his preferred play for at least a dozen of them. The play is simple to run but difficult to defend, relying on a three-step drop by the quarterback followed by a short strike to a receiver.

“Your pass protection is very limited,” Perry said. “It's a timing pattern. It requires 1.5 seconds, so if they blitz, you can get rid of the ball quick. The good thing about the concept is, I don't care what you play — man-to-man, Cover 2 or Cover 3 — we can still run the play. We run it at multiple downs and distances. And we can run it out of any formation: no backs, one back or two backs with a fullback.”

The outside receivers take three steps, then break into their slant routes. The tight end and slot run short outs. The play is predicated on creating mismatches, banking on broken coverage for big gains.

“The key is to get the outside linebackers to clear their zone to open up a slant route by running complementary routes underneath with the tight end and slot,” Perry said. “In high school, when somebody crosses their face, (defenders are) more than likely to be undisciplined enough to follow. We want to take advantage of this. If the safety vacates the zone, we throw behind him. If he stays in the zone, we still have a positive play because the tight end becomes an option.”

— Kevin Gorman

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Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 10:14 p.m.

The playbook for the most prolific passing offense in WPIAL history was designed on paper cocktail napkins at a Beechview sports bar aptly named The Huddle.

Seton-La Salle coach Greg Perry diagrammed plays, then asked Rebels offensive line coach Ed Feeney whether he could create blocking schemes for them.

“We'd sit down and draw up plays,” Perry said, “and if he'd say, ‘We can block it,' then we'd incorporate it. If not, we didn't run it. You've got to have a good offensive line coach because if you can't block it, it won't work. You've got to keep your quarterback off the ground.”

Perry estimates that 90 percent of Seton-La Salle's playbook was diagrammed at The Huddle. If the concept is as simple as a white cocktail napkin, its results have been anything but.

The Rebels have rewritten the WPIAL record books with a pass-oriented offense that has featured four all-state quarterbacks in an eight-year span and state-record-setting receivers.

Bruce Gradkowski passed for 2,978 yards in 10 games as a senior in 2000, broke 19 school records at Toledo and is a backup quarterback with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Anthony Doria led the Rebels to the 2002 WPIAL Class AA title, and found Joey DelSardo for a PIAA finals-record nine catches in the state title game.

Bill Stull became the first WPIAL passer to eclipse the 3,000-yard mark in 2004. His favorite target, Carmen Connolly, set state single-season and career records for receptions, with 116 for 1,545 yards in ‘04 and 221 catches for 3,019 yards from ‘02-04.

Doria went on to play at St. Francis (Pa.), Stull at Pitt and his successor, Matt Rodgers, at Akron. The Rebels have another Division I prospect in senior Luke Brumbaugh, whose favorite target is 6-foot-5, 250-pound senior tight end Scott Orndoff, a Pitt recruit.

The Rebels' passing game is predicated on quick, timing patterns with multiple options. Perry calls his bread-and-butter pass play, Lightning 30 Slant, at least a dozen times a game.

“When you do a three-step passing game, you get a lot of people involved,” Perry said. “The kids enjoy it and buy into it. The quarterback has freedom to check out of any call on first and second downs. On third down, they're not allowed.”

That's when Perry reserves the right to run the huddle, calling plays he and Feeney diagrammed at The Huddle. It's become their rite of passage every fall, best friends from Dormont drawing up passing plays on paper napkins.

“Isn't that the way it should be?” Perry said. “You can't make this game more complicated than it already is. You need to have fun with it. That's when you do your best work, with friends and coaches.”

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