COLUMBIA — In its win last week over Vashon, the Hickman football team got its best results not from superior tackling or passing, but rather from scrambles and scoops.
The 42-14 victory marked the Kewpies’ first win at home since October 26, 2007, and one of the keys to the game was the alertness of Hickman’s special teams players, who blocked three Vashon punts. Neither coach Jason Wright nor special teams coach Sam Bornhauser said they had ever seen three blocked punts in a high school game.
“Any time you block a punt, the single play will really change the game,” Wright said.
Wright and Bornhauser said the blocked punts were not a matter of luck, but a result of hard work at practices. The coaches said they’ve focused a lot this year on the “scoop and score” play, in which special teams players block a punt, scoop the ball up off the grass and take it into the end zone. Reviewing the play each week at practice paid off under the lights on Friday.
Bornhauser said the special teams players, especially Josh Perry, Kyle Asbury and Chris Patterson, are talented and eager to improve.
“The special teams guys are aggressive guys, they eat it up," Bornhauser said. "Every time they get a chance to go after one, they go for it.”
Wright and Bornhauser said they hope their players can continue to excel on special teams for the rest of the season. Although the Kewpies only spend about five or 10 minutes of each practice on special teams play, Bornhauser said his players use the time efficiently. Wright said he likes to slow down the motions of special teams play and force the players to pay close attention to the mechanics of their actions.
“For a punt block, we practice putting your hands together, and I stand back there and they have to take the ball off my foot,” he said.
Other players assist the special teams. Asbury said his teammates try especially hard to challenge him and the other special teams players when they line up in block positions and simulate punt situations during practice.
The players said they know that the smaller aspects of football, like special teams, can be crucial in swinging the game’s momentum.
“I think it’s kind of a game changer that nobody really notices,” Asbury said. “We don’t get noted for it that much until it actually counts.”
In addition, Asbury said special teams focuses on a team mentality. He and Patterson agreed they’re not sure who blocked each punt against Vashon.
“On special teams, you don’t really get a lot of a chance to look at the ball,” Asbury said. “So it was great to see the ball. One got through, we all rushed, and we saw the punter was really close. We all just jumped at the ball. Somebody made contact. We can’t really remember.”
Wright said he thinks the team is beginning to get a reputation for above-average special teams performance. The Kewpies began to master punt blocks at the end of last season, Wright said, and last Friday’s game showed they have improved their skills this season.
"I think people know that we’re going to try to block punts,” Wright said. “I think people are going to start bringing in protection and maybe try to fake punts to keep us honest. We’ve got to look out for that.”