Sports

Antique offense not unfamiliar to Farmers
In a time when the high-octane offenses seen on college campuses around the country are filtering down to high school teams, the I-formation offense run by the Union Farmers harkens back to “three yards and a cloud of dust” football played by Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler in the 1970s. »

Farmers not interested in sharing district title
If you look below the surface, the Union Farmers Friday trip to Richwood has much more at stake than just the last regular-season game. »

Prep time hardly stops for Farmers, coaches
An average American with a full-time job works 2,080 a year.
If Joe Spatafora and his staff at Union Parish High School put in that much time, they’d either have to take off in July or not show up to work until August.
Most Farmer fans show up for home games at Doc Elliott Stadium at 6:30 p.m., and by 10 they’re back home. For Spat and his staff, they put in as many hours on Friday as the average American does in half a week’s work.
“We get here around 7 a.m., and we’re rarely out of here before 3 a.m. (Saturday),” Spatafora said. “As soon as we’re through with one game, we’re already breaking down film and getting ready for our next opponent.”
For generations, assistant coaches spent Saturday on the road, meeting an assistant from next week’s opponent at a pre-determined destination halfway between the two schools to trade 8 mm game films. Film exchanges are now handled online through the website hudl.com. As soon as each game is over, coaches upload digital video of their games. Since all the Farmers’ opponents use the service, Spat and his staff can go back and review as many games as they want.
“It allows us to spot tendencies. If, for example, they gain five yards on a play, what are they likely to do next,” Spatafora said. “If they’re facing third-and-seven, what are they likely to do?”
Depending on where they are during the regular season, Spatafora and his staff may be reviewing film on as many as four opponents at any given time. In the playoffs, that’s ramped up even higher.
“We may be watching six or seven teams, because you don’t know who you’re going to play,” Spatafora said. “How much you put into (hudl.com) and what you get out of it are entirely up to you. No question, though, that it allows us to do things we could never do before.”
After an all-nighter Friday, coaches and players are given Saturday off. Many will spend time at home, using hudl.com to watch video of the next opponent.
The only players and staff who have mandatory duties Saturday are trainer Lisa Carroll Smith and players who have injuries requiring treatment. Green Clinic in Ruston sees players at 9 a.m. every Saturday.
Preparation for Friday night begins in earnest on Sunday. Coaching staff gather at the field house at 9 a.m., followed by players from 2-4:30 p.m. They watch video of the upcoming opponent, review it again Wednesday and again before the game on Friday.
With much of the Farmers’ success coming in the weight room, it’s an activity they continue throughout the season, although somewhat scaled back. More for maintenance than strength training, players hit the weights Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
Midweek is marked by what’s called “Walter Wednesday.” Fellowship of Christian Athletes coordinator Walter Allen spends an hour with the players, working on exercises that strengthen team-building skills and personal development.
Starting with two-a-days in the summer, the Farmers work out in full gear three days a week until the fifth playing date of the season. From Week Five through the end of the regular season, it’s “shells” — shoulder pads and helmets only — on Tuesdays. With the first round of the playoffs, practice is shorts and helmets only.
Now in his eighth season at UPHS, Spatafora shook his head when asked if he’d ever tried to figure out how many hours he and his staff put in each year.
“I’ve never tried, because then you’d probably realize you’re working for thirty-five cents an hour,” Spatafora said. “You just do what you’ve got to do to give your guys a chance to win.” »


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