Special teams plays helps three area squads
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on September 7, 2012 1:48 PM
The high school football season is only three weeks old, but there are already a few trends emerging.
One of the most talked about storylines so far has been the special play of several special teams units over the first three games.
From James Kenan to Eastern Wayne, squads have been showing a new-found affinity for football's third facet and the results have shown up directly in the win column.
No game better showcased the importance of special teams more than Eastern Wayne's 22-14 win over South Lenoir.
The momentum turned early in the game when a Warrior mistake led to a blocked punt that set up the Blue Devils inside the 10-yard line. Two plays later, South Lenoir scored the game-tying touchdown.
After retaking the lead just before halftime, Eastern Wayne pulled its special teams together and spent the second half playing field position and relying on its stout defense.
On three separate occasions, the Warriors elected to punt the football on their opponent's side of midfield. Punter Mitch Pike pinned the Blue Devils twice inside the 10. The third punt went out at the 16. All three led to long fields for the visitors and eventually stalled drives.
"Special teams con really set the tone for a series," Eastern Wayne head coach Guy Williams said. "We got a punt blocked which in our book is a turnover, but we came back and we made some big plays in the punting game in the second half. When you have a young team built around a tough defense you have to play field position and that means being able to pin teams back."
Southern Wayne also picked up its first win of the season in week three with an 18-8 triumph over White Oak. The Saints made the special teams play of the game in the third quarter when they got into the backfield and blocked a White Oak punt.
The ball dropped in the end zone and Earle Campbell recovered for a momentum-shifting touchdown that essentially sealed the victory.
"That play was big for us because it gave us a little breathing room," Southern Wayne head coach David Lee said. "I don't know how the ball stopped in the end zone on that wet turf, but I am sure glad it did and that our guys were there to fall on it."
James Kenan remained undefeated in week three with a thrilling 22-21 win over archrival East Duplin. The pivotal play of the second half came after a Tigers' touchdown run that pulled the team within one point.
Rather than try to tie the game with an extra point, head coach Ken Avent Jr. decided to go for the two-point conversion. The decision paid off as Ja'Quan Williams ran the ball across the goal line and put the Tigers ahead for good.
"It was still the third quarter, but we felt like we had the momentum and that was our best chance to get the lead back," Avent. Jr. said. "We had been struggling a little bit in the kicking game so we decided to go for two and it turned out to be the right call."