Football has been good this year. Quite good in fact. With two area teams making the high school playoffs again, and a third narrowly missing out due to the RPI system, not to rub salt in the wound of Sioux Central fans, players, coaches, students and anyone who is associated with the school in anyway, football has been wonderful.
Special teams play really turned the tide in Friday night’s game between the Rebels and Alta-Aurelia when a punt just skied up and went backwards through the Sioux Central end zone to shift momentum back to the Warriors.
Since then, after seeing some college and professional football over the weekend, it’s gotten me thinking about the importance of special teams in football. Fans take special teams for granted until either someone returns a kick for a touchdown, they fumble a kick or the kicker misses a chip shot field goal that anyone resting in an easy chair could certainly make themselves.
Some of the most exciting plays during a football game come on special teams. The thrill of seeing 10 guys, sometimes 11 if the kicker wants to get down and hit someone at the college and pro levels, trying to run down and make a play.
Special teams, in today’s football though, are getting phased out. More specifically the kickoff with more and more rules being added for player safety. The blocking wedge is illegal, college has added a rule that a player can fair catch inside the 25 yard line and the line keeps creeping up. Granted the kickoff has hurt more players then any other play.
However, most players on special teams are the unsung heroes of a football game. The guys that protect the punter and kicker, the guys who make the open field tackle against a shifty returner and the players that can make that tackle get applauded for that lone play they will make in that game.
As we have seen before in football, all it takes on a return is that first guy to miss and the returner is off to the races for a big return or even a touchdown. Looking at Alta-Aurelia again, after seeing their highlights on Hudl against St. Edmond when Anthony Krier brought a punt back for a touchdown, he was able to make one Gael miss around midfield to spring the rest of his return.
One of the turning tides in the Storm Lake and Humboldt game this year, again not to pour salt in any wounds, was the Wildcats returning the kickoff to start the second half to swing momentum to their favor.
Special teams is designed to help shift momentum and it’s so vital in football. A great punt sets the opposing offense back with a lot further to go. A bad punt can equally shift that momentum to the opposing team with better field position.
Football is commonly referred to as a game of inches. Special teams can showcase those inches maybe better than offense or defense because, again, starting on your own 5 yard line instead of the 30 yard line is big.
I’m sure special teams will play a key role in this week’s playoff games for both Newell-Fonda and Alta-Aurelia. Both schools have the ability to shift momentum with their special teams play kicking or returning it. The Mustangs also have a pretty reliable kicker in R.J. Rojas should the need arise.
However, the teams they are going against have decent special teams play as well. Coaches preach special teams for a reason. Perhaps no other unit in football can have a bigger outcome in a game than special teams. Coach Grant Mollring for BVU has stated a few times this season that he wants his special teams unit to play better to aid the team.
Nothing can be more exciting or frustrating than special teams play during a football game. The next time you watch a game, take a look at the gunners on a punt team or the guys blocking for the returner. Give them some love too.