By MICHAEL KELLY
FONDA -- With all of the conviction of Frank Morgan telling Judy Garland and her pals not to bother with that man behind the curtain, the Fonda-Fultonville Braves' coaches argued in the preseason that the football team's institution of plays out of an offset-I formation was merely a small wrinkle.
"You probably won't see it that much," offensive coordinator Sean Thompson said during one of the Braves' first practices.
Nope, the Braves' coaches said, the F-F offense is still a pass-happy, spread-based attack.
Then, Saturday's season-opening 49-12 rout of Voorheesville happened. The Braves' first play from scrimmage came out of the new formation and went for a 61-yard touchdown. From there, F-F ran 24 more plays out of the alignment and 25 plays with senior quarterback Russ Williams operating out of the Braves' traditional shotgun setup. Though the end result was a 50-50 split between the Braves' new and old looks, that math is a little misleading. F-F ran 16 of its shotgun-based plays in hurry-up drives that sandwiched halftime, meaning 64 percent of the team's shotgun plays were run during a course of four minutes, nine seconds of game action.
Laughing, Thompson contended after the game that the contest dictated the Braves' style of play -- and that he had not lied during the preseason about F-F's intentions for the 2013 season.
"If the game was close, we'd have probably run the spread a lot more," he said.
The Braves had not run any plays out of the formation during their preseason scrimmage, leaving Voorheesville in the dark about the new ploy.
"We definitely caught them off guard," said Williams. "If they filmed our scrimmage, they would have seen we didn't run any of it."
The Blackbirds had seen the scrimmage, and head coach Joe Sapienza said he had prepared his team to play against a spread offense, not a bunched-up attack out of an offset-I.
"We were not expecting it," said Sapienza. "They had the personnel to do it, but we weren't expecting that at all. We were expecting their traditional offense. ... That was unique for them."
Tight end Will Turner -- whose 6-foot-7, 230-pound build is a key component in the Braves' rushing attack -- said the new look will soon not be unique.
"That's what we're going to be doing this year," said Turner. "I love getting down and blocking."
Now, other teams know that -- and they are certainly paying attention.