Coaches: Kicking involves some strategy
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on October 10, 2013 1:49 PM
Any advantage is too good to pass up.
The key for high school football coaches is being able to keep the perceived advantage from turning on their respective teams.
This season many coaches have attempted to gain an edge through their unique skill sets on special teams. Either through on-side kicks, squib kicks or high drives into the end zone, teams are using every trick in the book to keep opponents off balance.
At Rosewood, the decision of when to employ each type of kick comes down to film study.
"We watch tape and try to identify where our opponents best athletes are on the return team," Eagles head coach Robert Britt said. "We want to keep the ball away from those players, so we may call for a squib kick or a short pooch kick."
The Eagles are able to put their defense in a position to get a stop when it works.
"Ideally the short kick is supposed to be very high and land at about the 30-yard line on the numbers," Britt said. "We want the other team to either fair catch it or wait for it to bounce, and then have to make a clean pickup."
On the flip side, Rosewood has been one of the best teams in the area over recent years in the return game. The Eagles have had at least one kick return and one punt return for touchdown each year since 2011. Tailback Jamari McGown has been a big part of that success with a pair of return touchdowns over the past two seasons.
"We practice fielding kicks and punts all the time," Britt said. "Those are hidden yards in a game that we need. Even if it's just a fair catch, at least the ball doesn't roll another 20 yards and put us in a hole."
Head coach Ken Avent Jr. relies on athletic advantages rather than strategic ones at James Kenan.
The Tigers, ranked No.1 in the state among 1-A teams, have the ability to kick the ball deep and cover the kick. That's not to say that the kickoff isn't agonizing for Avent Jr. and his staff.
"It's probably the scariest play for a coach," Avent Jr. said. "You have to have so many things in place, athletes that can get 60 yards down field and make a tackle, a kicker who can kick it high enough to cover, and a defense that can make the field position you gain hold up."
The Tigers began the season pooch kicking every time they were forced to kick. After three games, Avent Jr. decided to start kicking the ball deep and hopefully back opponents up.
"The first few games it was so hot and guys weren't in shape so it was beneficial to pooch kick," Avent Jr. said. "The guys who play both ways needed a rest so we decided to let them get a drink while we squibbed it.
"Now, it's cooler and the guys are in midseason shape so we can have our best athletes out there on kick coverage and try to boom it."
A kickoff return touchdown against Wallace-Rose Hill played a critical role in the Tigers' victory this season.
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