OWATONNA, Minn. (WCCO) – Owatonna High School’s football team will try to complete a perfect season next Saturday in the Class 5A title game.
The Huskies have been nearly impossible to stop on offense this season, racking up an average of 39 points a game.
But before Owatonna’s offense does its thing, the Huskie sideline does its part.
“When the sign boards go up, it might mean something,” says Coach Jeff Williams.
The coach is being cryptic on purpose. With a secret method of signaling plays in from the sideline, you have to shield it from the entire stadium.
There are six sign boards in Owatonna’s arsenal. But how many different combinations are there to communicate plays?
“Yes,” Williams said, adding a wry smile.
Signs include a photo of Will Smith, 70s-era Steve Martin, a fresh pack of diapers and even a slice of pizza.
“Each one of the signs kind of represents something,” says team manager Peyton Mensink, who keeps tabs on the tabs each game. “Can’t exactly say what.”
Coach Williams says the players like this visual system.
“It means something to them. Everything on there has some sort of a meaning to them, and I think it’s easier for kids to relate to that kind of stuff than it is all the jargon that you hear on the NFL Network,” he said. “I’m a biology teacher, and I think memorization means they got to take flash cards home.”
And the team memorized them quickly, which is nice, since quickness is the whole point; Get the play call in fast, no-huddle, to push the pace.
“I’ve gone out to Oregon the last two springs and spent time with their offensive staff,” Williams said. “And [I] got a couple of ideas on some ways that we might be able to speed up our game.”
But how do they make sure no one cracks the code?
Well, like any good secret code, there’s a lot of misdirection. You have to know where to look.
“We’ve got a signboard that goes up every play, and we’ve got two signalers,” Williams said. “So the play call could come from any of those things. Plus we’ve got some verbal things that we can do, too.”
And it’s not just as simple as somebody seeing Will Smith’s picture and figuring out that means “run the ball.”
“Right,” Williams said. “It better not be that simple, or we’re all going to be out of jobs pretty quickly.”
Owatonna will face an undefeated Brainerd in the 5A title game next Saturday.