Football is a game that rewards brains as much as brawn. It's not enough to outrun or outsmash your opponent, you must also have a man where no one expects him to be (such as in a yoga class).
Make confusion your strategy and you'll almost surely end up running a trick play. Sometimes, it's as simple as concealing who has the ball. Other times, it goes all the way into the realm of verbal deception.
The trick play is inherently about gamesmanship, which is nothing like sportsmanship. If sports were video games, gamesmanship would be exploiting programming glitches. Original gamesmanship is the mark of a military genius, as well as a sure way to find out who the whiners are on the other team. Keep reading to see our favorite examples.
Recently Driscoll Middle School in Corpus Christi, Texas, found itself down 6–0, so the team lured opponent Wynn Seale into an off-side penalty. After their opponent was penalized five yards, Driscoll announced they were taking another five. The quarterback asked the center for the ball, which is, yes, technically a snap to begin the play, then marched past the defending Wynn Seale line before breaking into a run. The touchdown evened the score, and the game ended in what was either a tie or, according to The New York Times, a loss for Driscoll. Either way, the team now has a bigger audience than "Glee."
Driscoll's trick was a more respectable variation of the "wrong ball" play, which is common among punk coaches across the country. Yes, you're there to win. And, yes, it's legal. Make no mistake -- the first guy to think this up was brilliant. But everyone who's done it since? There's a reason you only see this move in Pee Wee League: It's essentially a trick reserved for middle-aged men to pull on pre-teen children who are still learning the game. At that level, it's still cute and educational. They're learning some authority figures can't be trusted.
According to the description, this flapjack toss occurred because the QB was too short to throw the ball, which sounds like the most helplessly adorable football game ever. But it's also a trick play used by the big kids.
Here's a team that ran the same fake punt play all season without opponents catching on. It gets so ludicrous about halfway through, you suspect they deliberately fumbled the ball just to give the other team a chance.
This next one combines speed and tenacity to defuse an orderly defense, improvising a system to iceberg the ball into the end zone. With enough time on the clock for one more play, the Trinity Tigers settle on endless laterals as their delivery system for a game-winning touchdown. Listen to the twin announcers losing their minds over this endless hook-and-lateral. The Millsaps Majors know what's happening, but there's nothing they can do to stop this juggling juggernaut.
You know who wouldn't pull these shenanigans? Coach Eric Taylor on "Friday Night Lights." He wins with sagely advice and a clean conscience. He also surrounds himself with beautiful women, which lends weight to any man's wisdom. "Let me tell you something," he'd growl. "It's not just about winning, son. It's about heart. Now go out there, and let's play some football!" The kids need him while they're still developing into morally upright citizens. That's why he can't coach at the collegiate level. But you know who can? South Carolina Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier, who does stuff like the hidden ball trick all the time.
Here's Spurrier again. This time, a handoff from the quarterback turns into a monster throw that falls into the Kentucky Wildcats' end zone with the subtlety of the Tunguska event. By the time that ball fell into the receiver's hands, enrollment had dropped off at Kentucky.
And finally, here's Spurrier punking the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Eight Bulldog players had to be taken off the field in a stretcher with injured pride.