Post #3 Guest Blog: Puncher Play Calling Philosophy, Mechanics and Tempo by Aaron Makelky

Aaron Makelky.jpg



Aaron is currently the head football coach at Big Piney High School. They are a 2A school in western Wyoming. He came to Big Piney from Timber Lake, SD which is a small school in west-central South Dakota. Prior to that, Aaron coached at Bozeman High School which is the largest enrollment school in his home state of Montana. Two of Aaron’s main mentors are Troy Purcell, current assistant at the University of Idaho, and Levi Wesche, current head coach at Bozeman High.  Aaron has been in Big Piney for going on 8 years, and has been the head coach for the past seven seasons. Big Piney has been a pistol/gun zone offense with option elements. After a great season in 2017, we graduated 9 starters on offense and decided to transition to a pistol version of the flexbone. We have kept our play calling and signaling systems the same, which our players use from 6th-grade football up to varsity.

Terminology and Signals

Regardless of our tempo, we will always be 100% signals based with no sign boards, number trees, and no wristbands. Our experience has taught us that these are all cool and have slight advantages compared to other ways of communicating, but they all have one common shortcoming: they are not necessary and complicate things either for the players or for the coaches logistically.

We will have a 1-2 word signal that we can show and yell out for each formation, and a 1-2 word signal that we can show and yell for each play. Motions are built in to plays, which means we do not need to include them as an additional code word or signal. If we want to use a different motion than the default way, we tag it just like any other tag on a concept. Here are some examples:

  • Doubles Inside Veer to the Right= Base (formation) Bat (play series) North (direction)

  • Doubles X Over Midline Triple to the Left= X (formation) Army (play series) South (direction)

  • Motion to Trips Right Go Pass Right with Sprint-out Protection= Rex Go North

  • TE Right Inside Veer to the 1 technique= Ram Bat Check (hard count with jump motion, then QB checks the direction with a 1 word color call such as “North” or “South”)


We have three basic tempos: default, NASCAR, and air raid. Within our default tempo we can vary things from 4 minute drill (waiting until the back judge starts his five second count) to check mode.

Check mode is where we will signal a formation followed by a signal for check, with no play included. This results in our offense lining up quickly, the QB hard counting, and the A Back which we designate as the “Z” receiving doing a jump motion. We like this tempo if defenses are rolling the secondary with motion, shifting their box defenders, or lining up in junk defenses. For example, we had an opponent that would play games with lining up in a 3-4 Cover 2, then would roll a safety down pre-snap and bump into a 3-3 stack Cover 1. A call such as Base Check would result in us hustling to the line in our base formation, the QB hard counting while the A Back does a jump motion, then looking to the sideline for a two word call. We would signal & yell the concept and direction based on what the defense is in, such as “Army South”. There are also weeks we will allow the QB to check to what we like without our input. We have run check, followed by allowing the QB to check to a concept based on which gap is open. We name our concepts after which gap we want open, such as midline concepts starting with A and inside veer concepts starting with B, outside veer with C, etc.

NASCAR tempo is a sequence of four plays in a row, run without huddling or any input from the sideline. This is the first thing we practice on Mondays, we put the sequence on all of our practice plans and play sheets during the week, and all varsity and sub-varsity offensive units work on them each day during the week. We base our NASCAR concepts on what we think we can exploit versus our opponent that week and try to use extreme tempo in short bursts to keep them from adjusting. One opponent we faced we knew would struggle with making in-game adjustments and being sound against our option attack. We simply started the game with our NASCAR package the first four plays and caught them off guard. Once our signalers yell “NASCAR” and give the signal, our offense immediately lines up and runs the first play in the sequence. We usually keep all four plays in the same formation. An example of the NASCAR sequence we used against this opponent on the first drive was:

  1. Bat Check (inside veer checked to the open B gap)

  2. Bat Twirl Check (inside veer checked to the open B gap with a twirl motion)

  3. Dart Check (zone option checked to the better alley look)

  4. Bat Rambo Check (inside veer action bootleg to the field side)

The formation is understood to be base for all four plays, so it does not need to be included. We will only have one NASCAR sequence each week, but sometimes run it multiple times in the same game. We try to use concepts that build on each other and look similar.

Air Raid tempo is similar to NASCAR in that it is no huddle and as fast as possible, but is limited to our drop back passing concepts. We will always be in our 2x2 base formation, the center will check the protection to the 3 tech vs an even front, vs the better edge rusher in an odd front, and the skill positions only need the one word passing concept from the sideline. This is our two minute drill tempo, and we will use it when we feel the tempo and aggressiveness with catch our opponents off guard. Once our signal callers yell and signal “AIR RAID”, they signal the passing concept. For example, we might switch to air raid tempo in the middle of a drive, then signal in our code word for smash. The QB would yell “Air Raid, Air Raid, Air Raid, Hammer Hammer Hammer.” As soon as that play concluded, the signals would be signing in the next passing concept, such as “Omaha”. The line would already be set and calling the protection, the QB and wide outs would just need to see or hear the Omaha call.

Aaron Makelky

Head Coach

Puncher Football

Big Piney High School, Big Piney, WY

@amakelky on Twitter

Our next blog post will continue with an emphasis on No Huddle concepts, . As always feel free to discuss blog posts or ask questions on our forum page located here:  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me on twitter @runthetriple or @themeshpoint and my email address is

All the Best,

Matt McLeod