Rob Rowan wanted something new for the Central Bucks West football team.
He found something old.
In his second year as coach of one of Pennsylvania’s most fabled programs, Rowan was looking to invigorate a team that won four games in 2018 and was decades removed from its glory years in the 1980s and 1990s.
He traveled across the river and reached back in time.
Rowan sought help from legendary former West Deptford (N.J.) High coach Clyde Folsom, who helped the Bucks coaching staff install the Wing-T offense made famous by the late, great University of Delaware coach Tubby Raymond.
So far, so good for Central Bucks West, which has averaged 35.1 points and more than 300 rushing yards per game en route to the program’s first 7-0 start since 2000.
On Friday night, Central Bucks West beat Central Bucks East, 45-10, to capture the Central Bucks Cup — courtesy of victories over both district rivals, including Central Bucks South — for the first time since 2013.
“I wanted something that, No. 1, fit our personnel,” Rowan said of the off-season switch to the Wing-T. “And No. 2, something that’s very difficult to defend, especially since a lot of teams are not very familiar with it.”
West is one of the few teams in Southeastern Pennsylvania to operate the offense, which features the ground game with three running backs — two of whom often line up on the wings of the offensive line — with angle blocking, pulling guards and the occasional inside reverse.
This is the era of the no-huddle, spread offense in high school football, with heavy emphasis on the passing game as one by-product of the burgeoning growth of 7-on-7 competition in offseason settings.
“Spread teams are used to defending the pass,” said Folsom, now an assistant athletic director at West Deptford after going 227-60-2 with six sectional titles in 27 seasons. He retired from coaching after the 2017 season. “They aren’t used to playing in the closet.”
Rowan and his staff visited with Folsom at West Deptford three times last winter. C.B. West also attended a three-day Wing-T team camp at West Deptford in June.
“Three days, eight hours-a-day,” Rowan said. “Our guys got immersed in the offense.”
The results have been impressive. Through the first six games, the Bucks rushed for 1,889 yards, with senior back Jack Fallon leading the way with 956 yards and 13 touchdowns on 96 carries.
Senior quarterback Jack Neri had run for 325 yards and five touchdowns, and senior back Nick Tumolo had added 226 yards and six touchdowns.
“I think it’s awesome,” Fallon said of the offense. “We’re unpredictable. It’s hard to key on one thing. We can hit you in many ways.”
Neri was vaguely familiar with the offense since his dad, John Neri, played linebacker for Delaware under Raymond from 1988-91.
“I think it’s really hard to prepare for,” Neri said. “If I was going against this offense, I wouldn’t know where to look with pulling guards and running backs going in opposite ways.”
Rowan knows his team has miles to go before the Bucks can execute the offense in a way that resembles the precision work of veteran Wing-T teams such as West Deptford and small-school South Jersey non-public power St. Joseph of Hammonton.
“I have them watch West Deptford run it so they can say, ‘Wow, that’s what it’s supposed to look like,’ ” Rowan said.
But with just 41 players on the varsity, West has been able to use the new system, with its reliance on ball control, mobile linemen and mid-direction plays, to confound opponents and build momentum and confidence entering the final month of the regular season.
“We don’t have that many guys, but it’s kind of like we have that mentality of, ‘All we got, all we need,’ ” Fallon said. “We’re putting up big numbers. There’s just a lot of positive energy around our team.”