Avondale Westview wins with throwback offense

Avondale Westview wins with throwback offense


Avondale Westview wins with throwback offense


Avondale Westview coach Jeff Bowen has nothing against the forward pass, the spread offense and the 50-point games that have become the norm in high school football.

He just likes winning.

“I’ll take a boring win over a real exciting loss every Friday night,” Bowen said.

Westview is 5-0 with a wing-T offense that is to the spread formation what the horse and buggy are to the Porsche. To wit:

Westview is averaging 336.6 rushing yards and 93 passing yards per game. In its 38-28 victory over Chandler Basha last Friday Westview ran the ball 53 times. That’s exactly as many passes as it’s thrown all season. By comparison, Basha quarterback Zach Werlinger had 49 pass attempts in a game earlier this season.

Bowen doesn’t apologize for his 1950s scheme. Nor should he. Westview has been one of the state’s more consistent big-school programs. It’s won at least eight games every season since 2007, and it’s been to the playoffs seven consecutive years.

Westview, however, doesn’t get the same respect or attention given to some of the top East Valley programs. There are a couple of reasons for that. One, football in the West Valley has an inferior reputation to the product played on the east side. Two, when Westview has played the top East Valley teams it’s come up short.

In 2010, Westview lost to Chandler Hamilton and Scottsdale Chaparral. In 2011, it was beaten by Mesa Red Mountain, Phoenix Brophy Prep and Chandler High. Last year, it was Mesa Desert Ridge, Red Mountain and Brophy.

“Obviously when you start winning those games people have a tendency to look at you a little different,” Bowen said.

That’s the case this season. Westview beat Red Mountain, 21-14, in mid-September and last Friday had perhaps the signature regular-season win of Bowen’s tenure, defeating Basha 38-28.

The victories don’t thrust Westview into the state championship conversation; that debate still belongs to Phoenix Mountain Pointe, Hamilton and perhaps Desert Ridge. But they’re a reminder that Westview plays pretty good football, even if few notice.

“We feel like we’re one of the better programs in Division I,” Bowen said. “It’s not like we walk around with a chip on our shoulder saying we’re not respected. I know teams and coaches in the East Valley have respect for what we do.”

That they do. Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock gushes about Bowen and in particular his willingness to stick with what’s working — his wing-T offense — rather than join the spread formation crowd.

“I’m so admirable of it we run his offense now,” Hathcock said. “I’m serious. We do. And I was one of these coaches who wanted to sell the spread and say, ‘This is where the game is going.’ But he doesn’t care about all that pop culture stuff. All he cares about is winning.”

Bowen’s devotion to the wing-T — a run-heavy offense that features a lot of misdirection in the backfield — began during his playing days at Glendale Independence High and later as an assistant coach under Tom Wheatley at Agua Fria. He stuck with it not because it’s what he knows best but because he believes it’s the system that best fits the players he inherits at Westview.

Bowen said that in his 11 seasons at the school he’s had only five kids go on to play Division I football.

Plus, he doesn’t get big linemen who can hold their blocks for several seconds while plays in the spread offense develop. His starting center this season is 190 pounds. His two guards are 185 and 170 pounds.

They can play in the wing-T because the offense requires more trapping and angle blocking than it does straight-ahead power blocking.

“I wouldn’t run it if I didn’t think we could be successful,” Bowen said. “I’m sure there are kids that don’t come to Westview because it’s not flashy, but it’s actually become a point of pride in our community. It’s a style and mentality that’s definitely different.”

One advantage to the offense is that so few teams run it. Hathcock said that when Desert Ridge played Westview in the playoffs last year — Desert Ridge won 14-7 — his defensive staff put 20 hours of prep work in because it hadn’t seen the wing-T all year.

“His teams are so hard to prepare for,” Hathcock said. “He runs it so well, too. What he does is sell his kids on the fact they’re tougher than everybody, they’ll outsmart people and do things nobody else does. His model still works.”

As for the notion that Westview and the wing-T are outdated and boring, one question:

Since when is winning boring?

Reach Bordow at scott.bordow@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-7996. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/sBordow.

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