Special teams frustrate coaches, can win games


By Franklin Taylor - [email protected]



File photo Red Springs head coach Ron Cook, left, is one of several coaches who puts a strong emphasis on kicking and other special-teams plays. He says his squad has been spending time at each practice working on special teams since this spring.


LUMBERTON — “Kickers are the wierdest kids in the world,” Fairmont head football coach Mark Heil said at Three Rivers Conference Media Day.

Heil finds this part of the game so elusive that he doesn’t even know if his squad will go for extra points this season.

One Columbus County coach went further, suggesting football should do away with kickers.

South Robeson head coach Clay Jernigan didn’t go that far, but it’s clearly not his favorite part of the game. “We aren’t going to worry with kicking,” he said.

Most coaches say kicking can’t be ignored, even if they struggle with who to give those duties to in some seasons.

St. Pauls coach Trey Sasser said his team was in the process of working out a kicking solution after the player they’d worked with to handle those duties moved out of state.

Two weeks later, the Bulldogs have turned to a soccer player, senior Gustavo Rosas, to apply foot to ball.

Other coaches don’t thinking spending a little time on special teams each day is wise. They favor spending a lot of time.

Both Lumberton coach Mike Setzer and Red Springs coach Ron Cook make special teams a key point of emphasis, noting that it’s a third of each game.

“Special teams has always been a primary focus,” Cook told the conference media day. “We do kick extra points. Our punt team will be better than last year.”

While he wasn’t sure about who would handle kickoffs for the Red Devils, he was confident his team would be ready.

Talking with The Robesonian later, Cook said his special teams preparation goes well beyond basic kicking. Onside kicks are practiced. So are non-kicking plays, such as decisions for the punt team to go for the yardage on fourth down when the defense hasn’t made the right adjustments.

Cook expects to force other teams to invest time in preparing for his squad’s special teams. Those caught unprepared could be in trouble.

Setzer said he decided the Pirates needed extra focus on special teams after last season. He felt their kickoffs especially hurt them. He appointed assistant coach Jaime Bell to serve as his special teams coordinator, a position that didn’t previously exist for Lumberton.

Unlike the Red Devils, the Pirates don’t expect to run a lot of trick plays on special teams. What they do expect is to be well-prepared to punish anyone who tries to trick them.

“We know you have to be ready,” Setzer said.

File photo Red Springs head coach Ron Cook, left, is one of several coaches who puts a strong emphasis on kicking and other special-teams plays. He says his squad has been spending time at each practice working on special teams since this spring.
http://robesonian.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/web1_Ron-Cook.jpgFile photo Red Springs head coach Ron Cook, left, is one of several coaches who puts a strong emphasis on kicking and other special-teams plays. He says his squad has been spending time at each practice working on special teams since this spring.

By Franklin Taylor

[email protected]

Reach Sports Editor Frank Taylor at 910-816-1977 or email him at [email protected]

Reach Sports Editor Frank Taylor at 910-816-1977 or email him at [email protected]

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