One of key factors behind the surprising success of Statesboro High School's 1945 football team was the implementation of the T-formation by Coach Earnest Teel.
When Coach Teel came to Statesboro in 1945 from Alabama, he brought the offensive formation with him that he learned from a former student who went on to play with the NFL Chicago Bears.
The Bears began using the T-formation as their primary offensive set in 1920, but most other NFL teams didn't adopt it until much later. The T got its name from its look - three running backs lined up in a row about five yards behind the quarterback.
"To my knowledge, no high school football team in our area had ever seen or played against the T-formation prior to playing us that season," said Louis Simmons, who played tight end on the 1945 team. "Everybody used the single-wing offense, including us. What I noticed immediately was that the T made it hard for the defense to know which running back actually had the ball."
Simmons, who played the right side tight end, said that by having so many options in the backfield, the new formation really took advantage of the speed of running backs Dent Newton, Avant Daughtry and Jimmy Mincey and the power of fullback Jud Lanier.
As detailed in Simmons' "Amazing 13" article published last Sunday in the Statesboro Herald, the 1945 Blue Devils went from 2-7-1 in 1944 to an 8-1 record in Coach Teel's first year, outscoring their opponents, 298-53. The 13 varsity players played both offense and defense and no one weighed more than 175 pounds.
The T-formation helped the 1945 Blue Devils average 33 points per game on offense, after averaging only 6 points per game the year before.
"I could see the opposing coaches really didn't know how to defend us," Simmons said. "That T-formation installed by Coach Teel really was the key to the success of our season."
The T-formation became more popular in the NFL after the Bears defeated the Washington Redskins, 73-0, in the 1940 NFL championship game.
The 73-point margin remains, by far, the most lopsided victory in NFL championship game and Super Bowl history.
The T-formation also became more widespread among teams Statesboro played after the success of Coach Teel and his amazing 1945 Blue Devils team.