Michigan football got its train formation from Chatfield

Michigan football caused a stir over the weekend when it lined up in what people are calling the "train" formation:

Among the immediate questions: Where did it come from?

On Tuesday, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was asked about it.

"I can't take credit for that one," Harbaugh said on his radio show, according to CoachingSearch.com. "That was Jay Harbaugh. He was pouring over high school tape and saw a high school team in Colorado that used that. We can't take credit for it. If any credit, I give it to Jay for spotting it, being diligent going through the tape. We said, 'That looks good.'

"We had fun practicing it. We had fun putting it in and putting it in the game. It might have a future."

Turns out that Jay Harbaugh, a Michigan assistant, was watching game tape of tight end Dalton Keene, where they saw Chatfield run it. Chatfield coach Bret McGatlin tweeted this out during the game:

Reached on Tuesday afternoon, McGatlin said Chatfield calls the play their Speed Line, and it's part of their Pyscho offense. The Chargers typically it run a few times a game, depending on the situation.

It originated from McGatlin's father, Don McGatlin, the legendary former coach at Green Mountain. Don McGatlin and Green Mountain ran it "every play," Bret McGatlin said, during the 1999 season when they won the Class 4A state title.

"It was just something he created on his own. He's always thinking outside-the-box," Bret McGatlin said. "He is hilarious to watch. My dad is the most animated coach you'll ever find. My dad and I are very similar but we're so different. I actually learned a lot from coach (Andy) Lowry and Columbine, and I have a tendency to be very focused on fundamentals. My dad's just always thinking these crazy thoughts. That's what nice about him and I working together.

"I mean, just this morning," McGatlin said, "he called me, and he goes, 'I was up at 4 a.m., and I has this idea ...'"

(via @Wes_Kieschnick on Twitter)

Chatfield, running the Speed Line this season. (via @Wes_Kieschnick on Twitter)

Chatfield is known for its fast-paced spread offense, which Bret McGatlin specializes in and is a leading proponent of in Colorado. Psycho is actually a separate offense Chatfield runs and is designed to not allow the defense to make pre-play adjustments.

"What Michigan was trying to do and what we try to do is we line up so quick that it makes it difficult for anybody for adjust to it," McGatlin said. "Our goal is to line up in less than three seconds. You really catch teams off guard. We run maybe two-to-three different formations out of it. It really is crazy."

The Chargers had run the Psycho offense and the Speed Line package before, but didn't in 2015. This offseason, the McGatlins were talking and, "He was like, 'You know what? I want to get that going again,'" Bret McGatlin said.

So Chatfield put the offense in and ran it five times against Pine Creek in Week 1. Prior to Week 2, Don McGatlin's cabin in South Park — a fixture as part of team retreats in the summer — burned down and so the Chargers ran the offense the first two series against Palmer. It was also heavily featured this past week in a win over Widefield in the pouring rain.

Michigan had been recruiting Chargers tight end Dalton Keene recently, McGatlin said, and actually just offered him a scholarship. Jay Harbaugh complimented Chatfield's offense, and "He just asked me to make sure we watched the game this week," McGatlin said.

McGatlin did watch the game, but wasn't really paying close attention. His principal, Chad Broer, texted him a photo of the formation.

"They were watching (Keene's) film. He told me they had watched every single one of our plays," McGatlin said. "Jay Harbaugh texted after the game and he said, 'Did you see it?'"

Oh, he saw it.

"I got a little emotional. I was like, 'That's my dad.' He's put that together over the course of two decades," McGatlin said. "My wife was like, 'Are you crying?!' 'No. This is just really emotional!'"

The play drew wide notice and acknowledgment all over the internet, including here in Colorado.

"It's been pretty cool," McGatlin said. "And all because of one play. I hope they run it more."

Chatfield Ralston Valley football

Dalton Keene. (Lance Wendt/LanceWendt.com)