Monday, November 19, 2007


Bay Area Confidential: Piedmont's A-11 is A-OK
There's more to Highlanders than revolutionary offense and more to playoff schedule than places and time.
By Mitch Stephens

Like most revolutions, even on a high school football field, this one met much resistance.

Piedmont coaches Steve Humphries and Kurt Bryan had masterminded a revolutionary offense last spring, the A-11, where all 11 players were eligible for passes.

They dissected the rule book, checked and double checked with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) and spent gobs of cell phone minutes with referee organizations to make sure their six-receiver, three-linemen sets were clean, kosher and legal.

Once that got cleared, selling and implementing it to their players during spring break was another major obstacle.

"It looked pretty crazy but we were pretty open," starting quarterback Jeremy George said. "It was new and exciting and innovative. I think my parents were a little concerned who was going to protect me. I don't think the running backs were crazy about it. The receivers were really excited though."

Everyone was excited when the Highlanders dropped their first two games and scored just nine points in the process.

Excited in the bad sense, however.

Head coach Bryan, whose been in coaching since 1987 including stops at Menlo College and St. Mary's College, said he's never received so much hate mail or criticism.

"It was pretty bad," he said. "The worst I've ever received. But most of it was anonymous. It was kind of expected since we made such drastic switches and lost games."

Said George: "I think everyone was a little worried."

But Bryan, Humphries and staff reminded their players of a saying they'd repeated many times over the previous season, a far reaching credo that expanded far beyond the ultra spread offense.

"Tough times don't last but tough people do."

Trite maybe.

Corny perhaps.

But like corn syrup it stuck. And so did the offense.

The coaches said they never lost faith because despite the lack of production early, they still saw shimmering potential.

"We saw in game film we were one or two blown assignments away from major big plays," Humphries said. "If we fixed our mistakes, the entire thing would open right up."

They were right.

Behind the coach's faith, the players' execution and the innovative offense, the Highlanders rattled off seven straight wins before a 38-15 loss last week to defending North Coast Section Class A champion St. Patrick/St. Vincent-Vallejo.

The game decided the Bay Shore Athletic League championship.

Despite the defeat, Piedmont (7-3) received a NCS 2A East Bay at-large berth and tonight travels to top-seed Los Lomas-Walnut Creek (10-0) with a chance to create another revolution of sorts.

Humphries said he devised the offense just for this reason - so his undersized squad from a small-enrollment school could compete against bigger and larger-enrollment schools.

Of the 19 2A East Bay football schools, Piedmont ranks 18th with 941 students. Last Lomas ranks first with 1,569. The enrollment disparity, according to Humphries, is part of the reason the Highlanders haven't won a playoff game since 2000, losing five first-round games since then.

The A-11 features a center, a tight end on each side and three wide receivers to the right and left, respectively, with two quarterbacks in shotgun formation. With no one under center, the offense meets the criteria for a scrimmage kick formation.

Thus any player with eligible numbers (1-49 or 89-99) is eligible to catch a pass. See A-11 for more detail.

"We had to figure out a way to compete against bigger schools," Humphries said. "Year in, year out we are getting beat up in the playoffs by bigger and more physical teams. This allows us to utilize our speed, quickness and smarts."

George definitely utilizes all the above.

The 5-foot-9, 140-pound junior combines great feet (he's been a starter on the soccer team since he was a freshman), toughness and strong arm with a 3.85 grade point average to keep the Highlanders moving.

He's completed 120 of 205 for 1,483 yards and 12 touchdowns. He's also the team's leading rusher with 332 yards on 77 attempts, which includes only 12 sacks.

George has spread the ball all around as six receivers have at least 12 catches, led by Joey Andrada (31), Alexander Menke (26) and Kyle Bonachum (21).

"After our two losses, we really pulled together and worked even harder on the offense," George said. "It's not nearly as crazy as it seems."

The coaches agree and actually said once learned it's not any more complex than the wishbone, veer or conventional spread.

"We just call it the super spread," Humphries said.

The players aren't the only ones buying in, Bryan said.

He's received calls from at least 50 college coaches and one un-named NFL head coach.

"He's in the NFC," Humphries said. "That's all I can tell you."

Other advantages to the offense are that it's difficult to prepare for, team fitness and a constant ray of hope.

"We feel like no deficit is insurmountable," Bryan said.

Said Humphries: "Plus it just promotes innovation and excitement. When executed just right it's a thing of beauty."

The Highlanders will need a lot of beauty tonight to beat the juggernaut Knights, who average 370 yards and 41 points per game. Las Lomas features one of the East Bay's premier runners, Danny Ward (1,262 yards, 17 touchdowns) and dynamics receivers in Diante Jackson.

With all the attention paid to the A-11, Piedmont's strength is probably on defense, which gives up just 14 points a game and is led by 5-10, 180-pound linebacker Keith Reid (62 tackles) and 6-foot, 180-pound back Rory Bonnin (three interceptions).

No matter what happens tonight, Bryan said 2007 season has been an overwhelming success.

He credits other varsity staffers Pete Schneider (quarterbacks), Mario Thornton (receivers), Anthony Freeman (running backs/tight ends) and Kevin Anderson II (defensive coordinator) as equal parts.

"I'm proud of the team and staff to sticking to their guns and not wavering during really difficult times," he said. "The players really persevered and succeeded and that's something they can take with them always."

Sunday, November 18, 2007


November 18th, 2007

At Las Lomas high school in Walnut Creek, CA on Friday night, the visiting Piedmont Highlanders football team went into their first-round NCS playoff game with nothing to lose against the big and powerful host Knights.

Las Lomas, the #1 seed and (10 – 0) entering the game, were heavily favored against the # 8 seed Highlanders (7 – 3) entering the contest. However, it was a very tough battle (28 – 14 Las Lomas after three-quarters) until the fourth quarter began. Eventually Las Lomas broke the game open with 28 points in the final quarter to earn a 56 – 21 hard fought victory over Piedmont.

Piedmont entered the playoffs on the strength of its stingy defense and innovative A-11 Offense (all eleven players potentially eligible & two QB’s in shotgun formation).

“We had several nice chances in the first half to put even more points on the board against the number one ranked team,” said Piedmont head football coach, Kurt Bryan “but we missed some scoring opportunities deep inside their territory, and against a great team like Las Lomas you don’t get those back. Even though we were only down 21 – 14 at the half, respectfully to them we should have had at least four touchdowns on the board by then. They beat us fair and square, and I am very proud of the way we played.”

Las Lomas came out firing and built up an early 14 – 0 lead, but the Highlanders rallied and primary quarterback, Jeremy George found wide receiver Joey Holland on a 57-yard touchdown pass, to make it 14 – 7. Las Lomas scored again to make it 21 – 7, but Piedmont marched into Las Lomas territory again, and George hit playmaker Devin Brown on a 19-yard pass on 4th down to make it 21 – 14 at the end of the first half.

Explained Bryan, “When we were down 35 – 21 with seven minutes to go in the game we had to take some chances against Las Lomas, but unfortunately we did not convert those opportunities to pull within seven points. And so, they put the game away after getting the ball back.”

Piedmont ends the season at an overall record of 7 – 4.

“It has been a magical year,” said Bryan, “nobody expected much of anything from us, and the kids have played great. Installing the A-11 was the best thing we could have done for the program and the players transitioned very well. They made football history one week at a time utilizing the new system, and for them to earn a spot in the playoffs was a reward much deserved for the whole team.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


November 13th, 2007

Re: Piedmont football team makes NCS playoffs and football history!

On Sunday, November 11th at Las Lomas high school in northern California, the selection committee chose the Piedmont Highlanders football team as the # 8 seed in the NCS 2A East Bay playoffs.

Not only did the good news excite the Piedmont football team and reward them for an outstanding season, but it also validated Piedmont’s new A-11 Offense (all eleven players potentially eligible), thereby signaling a shift in the high school football landscape.

Piedmont (7-3) will play at Las Lomas (10-0) who is the # 1 seed in the tournament.

Piedmont’s Head football coach Kurt Bryan said, “For our players to accomplish so much up to this point in time in the first season of using the A-11 is truly remarkable. Our team has worked so hard and has earned this spot in the playoffs by never giving up and never looking back. Even though we are a very small school, we have earned the right to play the largest school in 2A, Las Lomas, and they are awesome. Our players and assistant coaches deserve a ton of credit and it’s a testament to their commitment to succeed.”

The Highlanders earned the playoff berth with their overall record and strength of schedule - their 3 losses coming against teams with a combined record of 25 – 5.

“It’s going to be a great game,” said Bryan, “we are going to put the football in the air all night long, and it’s going to be a fun game to watch on both sides.”

Sunday, November 11, 2007


November 6, 2007

Exactly...What is this New A-11 Offense in Football?

The A-11 Offense (All Eleven Players Potentially Eligible) is a new, scrimmage-kick formation based, offensive system in football created by Piedmont Head Coach, Kurt Bryan, Director of Football Operations, Steve Humphries, and the entire Piedmont Football Coaching Staff.

"Respectfully, throughout football history at the high school level, other teams have run a few plays from a scrimmage kick formation. But this is a brand new system in football, and for the thousands of small schools like us nationwide that are forced to compete against much larger schools on a regular basis, it's the only way we can be competitive. The larger enrollment schools have a very unfair size advantage over the smaller schools, and so we had to try something new." Explains Piedmont head coach, Kurt Bryan.

Piedmont High School, in Piedmont, CA, is in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) NCS - 2A East Bay Classification, with a coed, public enrollment of just over 800 students. However, Piedmont routinely competes against schools nearly twice their size. In fact, in their NCS - 2A Classification (the enrollment bracket is from a minimum of 700 students all the way up to a maximum of 1,600 students). Potentially, more than a 2 - to - 1 enrollment size disadvantage for the smaller schools.
And so, the A-11 Offense was born to try and somewhat negate the sheer overwhelming size advantage much larger schools maintain over the small ones.

"In high school athletics, constructing a fair, positive and competitive environment for the student-athletes has always been the top priority, and that should never change." Notes Bryan, "The CIF, the National Federation of High Schools, and all of the Referees that have worked our games throughout California should all be praised and commended for not discriminating against us because we took a chance and tried something new. Their open-minded and diverse approach about understanding the need for us to be competitive by trying this new system has been totally professional. And, the feedback from players, fans, opposing coaches and the officials has been fantastic. For that, we are most grateful. Football is a game that is always evolving and this is just another step forward for high school football."

The A-11 features up to all eleven players wearing an eligible receiver jersey number, either 1-49 or 80-99, with two quarterbacks in the shotgun formation, and with nobody under center - thereby meeting the criteria for a scrimmage kick formation. In their base sets, Piedmont has a center, and a tight end on each side, and three wide receivers to the right, and left respectively. By spreading the potentially eligible receivers across the entire field, it forces the defense to account for every possible receiver on each play. Of course, on any given play, only 5 of those players can go downfield to catch a pass, and the rest remain ineligible to catch a downfield pass on that particular play.

The A-11 was in development for more than a year before being unveiled in the Highlanders season opener vs. Campolindo. After working out some kinks during their first two games, Piedmont has reeled off 7 straight wins, now stands 7-2-0 overall, undefeated in BSAL league play at (5-0), and plays reigning league champion, St. Patrick's (9-0) on November 9th, at 7:00PM for the league title, in Vallejo, CA.

"After our first two games, some people thought we were crazy," said Bryan, "but the players and coaches kept believing in the A-11 and learning about it; and our school's administration has been very supportive too. Now, we have earned the right to play for the league championship against one of the top 5 teams in our state bowl division rankings, and it doesn't get any better than that."

The Piedmont coaching staff is also excited about the excellent safety aspect of the new offense, says A-11 co-creator Steve Humphries. “An unforeseen benefit for us has been a major increase in the safety and protection of our players. We have not had major injuries to our offensive players in a game or practice due to the spread out nature of the A-11, and this is a major selling point. It really helps the players of the much smaller schools stay healthier during the season, which in turn allows schools like us to remain competitive throughout the entire year.”

"We are getting calls and emails from all over the country about the A-11 and how it works; from high schools and college, and one NFL coach too." Explains Bryan. "That is a great compliment to the entire Piedmont football family, from top to bottom: players, coaches, our administration and fans alike."


November 10th, 2007

Re: Piedmont battles defending champ St. Patrick’s in BSAL title game

Friday night in Vallejo, CA the visiting Piedmont Highlanders football team (7 - 3) overall, were overwhelming underdogs going into the game against powerhouse St. Patrick’s (10 – 0) overall, with the BSAL championship on the line.

And for three-quarters of the game, it was a very close game, until Piedmont eventually succumbed to the dominant rushing attack of the host Bruins, and fell 38 – 15.

Piedmont was riding a seven-game winning streak on the strength of its underrated defense and revolutionary A-11 Offense (all eleven players potentially eligible and two quarterbacks in shotgun), and Piedmont held a slim 9 – 7 lead over the Bruins, until St. Patrick’s took the lead right before the first half ended on a field goal to make the score 10 – 9.

“That was the best team we saw all year,” said Piedmont head coach, Kurt Bryan, “it’s clear why St. Patrick’s has won nineteen straight games and is so highly ranked in the state, they’re excellent. More importantly, our guys played their hearts out tonight and traded hard hits with them all night. After we took the lead, we had a few more opportunities to open up a larger margin but we did not convert. In a championship game, second chances are hard to come by. I am so proud of our guys, nobody expected us to be playing for the league title this year and we came close to winning it.”

Piedmont’s tough defense and new A-11 Offense kept the game close, and running back Rory Bonnin scored on a 2-yard run to bring the score to 7 - 6, Bruins. Piedmont place kicker Jordan Remer later drilled a 34-yard field goal, giving the Highlanders the lead at 9 - 7.

The pounding rushing attack was the difference in the second half, as the Bruins scored two rushing touchdowns, but with under two minutes to play in the 3rd quarter, Piedmont’s primary quarterback, Jeremy George added another touchdown on a 1-yard keeper, and the score was 26 – 15 for the host Bruins. St. Patrick’s added two more touchdowns runs making the final score 38 – 15.

“We’ve won seven of our last eight games since installing the A-11 Offense, and respectfully our team deserves to get into the NCS - 2A playoffs. I hope we get chosen by the playoff committee at the playoff seeding meeting this Sunday, the players deserve to keep playing.” Said Bryan.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


November 3rd, 2007

Piedmont’s 7th straight win sets up league title showdown vs. St. Patrick’s

In Crockett, CA vs. John Swett high school Friday night in a BSAL game, the visiting Piedmont Highlanders football team took care of business in a hard fought victory 21 – 14 over the host Indians.

The Highlanders defense and new A-11 Offense won its seventh game in a row, and Piedmont is 7 – 2 overall and (5 – 0) in BSAL play. They travel to take on reigning BSAL champion St. Patrick’s (9 – 0), Friday, November 9th at 7:00PM in Vallejo, CA.

“We knew going into the game it was going to be a “blue collar” type of effort, and if we were going to get the win, we would have to be tough, take a lot of chances on offense, and keep our composure. Anytime a team is on the road and without several top players for that game, it is harder to be successful against good teams.” Explained Piedmont head coach, Kurt Bryan. “For this team to win its seventh game in a row is huge…huge!”

Piedmont earned the victory without three key starting players ever stepping onto the field, including primary A-11 quarterback Jeremy George, who was kept out of the game due to a minor injury; George will return next week. However, the Highlander’s other quarterback in their unique two-quarterback system, Ryan Lipkin managed the offense very well in relief. Lipkin completed 15 of 26 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns, with only one interception and made excellent decisions throughout the game.

Piedmont’s first score came near the end of the first half, as Lipkin found wide receiver Joey Andrada on the right sideline for a short gain, that Andrada quickly turned into a 79-yard bolt to even the contest 7 – 7 at the half.

The Highlanders defense continued its well-earned reputation as a hard-nosed group, by yielding only 7 points, as the Indians other touchdown came on a 95-yard kickoff return.

Lipkin’s second touchdown pass went to wide receiver Alexander Menke on a 25-yard strike on 4th down to take the lead. And, running back Chris McHenry also scored on a nice 1-yard plunge into the end zone.

“It’s going to be a great game vs. St. Patrick’s for the league title,” said Bryan, “they are an excellent football team and respectfully…so are we. Both teams deserve the shot at it.”

Friday, November 2, 2007


Highlanders win sixth straight game
Junior quarterback George has a field day in 47-7 rout of Moreau Catholic
By Pete Elman
Article Launched: 11/02/2007 03:06:32 AM PDT

PIEDMONT -- It took Piedmont High School a half to get untracked. But when its explosive offense did kick in, the results was five unanswered touchdowns in a 47-7 rout of Moreau Catholic in front of an enthusiastic crowd Oct. 26. After opening the 2007 campaign with consecutive non-league losses to Campolindo and Truckee, Piedmont (6-2, 4-0 BSAL) reeled off its sixth straight win.

Poised junior quarterback Jeremy George led Piedmont. He completed 10 of 16 passes -- to seven receivers -- for 148 yards and two touchdowns and ran the ball nine times for 95 yards and another score. The Highlanders' defense, after giving up an early score to Moreau (2-6, 1-4), shut down the Mariners, holding the visitors to only 102 yards total offense.
"Our defense is fast and smart," said Piedmont coach Kurt Bryan.

Although Moreau suited up only 19 players, the game started out inauspiciously for the Highlanders, who made several key mistakes in the first half. Kicker Jordan Remer broke the ice with a 25-yard field goal to give Piedmont an early 3-0 lead, and after holding the Mariners to the second of nine three-and-outs, a 34-yard jaunt by halfback Keith Reid set up a three-yard touchdown run by Elliot Wainess to make it 10-0.

But the Mariners, led by quarterback Devin Saxon, came right back and scored on a 6-yard run by Leonne Punzalan. This would prove to be their only points of the night. On the next possession George converted a 50-yard pass play to Devin

Brown, only to have it called back on a holding penalty. The Highlanders forced another Moreau punt, and when the snap sailed over punter Brandon Chamberlain's head, Matt Fineman tackled him in the end zone for a safety to give Piedmont a 12-7 lead halfway through the second period.

A fumble by Reid after a nice 21-yard run thwarted another drive, and another holding infraction negated what would have been an 80-yard touchdown pass from George to Kyle Bonacum. Instead of going into the locker room with a large lead, the home team led by only five points. "The first half we played well, but we shot ourselves in the foot repeatedly," said Bryan, "so we changed it up a bit in the second half."

What Bryan did was actually minor tinkering, but it had a major impact on the game. With his swarming, stingy defense (five sacks) making sure the Mariners couldn't get anything going, his multi-faceted offense stopped making mistakes and started clicking. Alternating their unique two-quarterback A-11 set with a more traditional "Highlander" formation, Piedmont reeled off five touchdowns.

"We have to be flexible to be successful," Bryan said. The 140-lb. George broke two tackles on a 23-yard keeper to start the onslaught, and then found Joey Andrada behind the secondary for a 23-yard touchdown pass, breaking the game open at 26-7. Reid, who also played a fine game on defense, scored on a 5-yard run to open the final quarter. On the next possession, George spotted tight end Bryce Chu in the end zone for a 14-yard scoring strike. The final score came when quarterback Ryan Lipkin hit Devin Brown on a 9-yard touchdown pass.

George was quick to give credit to his teammates. "I have faith in all of our receivers," he said. "We have a lot of athletes out there." Highlander kicker Jordan Remer had an excellent game. In addition to his field goal, he was 6-for-6 on extra points and kept the Mariners from getting good field position with his booming kickoffs.

Tonight the Scots travel to Crockett to play John Swett. Then a showdown with undefeated St. Patrick-St. Vincent on Nov. 9 will probably determine the league champion.

Notes: Alamo author Jack Reed, who has written several books on youth football, was at the game researching a new book on "contrarian offenses". Piedmont's A-11 was what interested him. "I saw the Campo game, and now these guys really have it working well," Reed said.