A chart labeled “Special Forces” that maps the play of the Hickman Kewpies’ special teams is posted inside the coaches’ trailer.
The chart lists goals for each game, which include winning the field position game, blocking punts or forcing turnovers and converting all extra-point attempts.
Ultimately, the Kewpies hope reaching these goals on special teams will lead to an upset against the No. 1 Blue Springs Wildcats.
The Kewpies (8-3) host the Wildcats (11-0) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in a Class 6 state semifinal. The winner plays the Lindbergh-Hazelwood Central winner for the state title Nov. 28 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
Coach Gregg Nesbitt said his staff developed “Special Forces” to ensure the No. 4 Kewpies did not forget about special teams.
“Our Special Forces are our special teams,” Nesbitt said. “There are three phases to a football game. Special teams are important at all levels. It is probably the most neglected area at the high school level.
“We feel like we don’t neglect it. A lot of coaches give it lip service, but we work hard on it.”
The Kewpies focus on blocking punts during practice.
“Those guys probably get 40 reps a week blocking punts, actually taking the ball off the punter’s foot,” Nesbitt said. “The players still have to execute, but if you expect a guy to block a punt, you have to give him the sensation of blocking one.”
The Kewpies have blocked three punts, which have resulted in 17 points. Reggie Hatton, a junior cornerback who plays on special teams, said blocking a punt can change the outcome of a game.
“Blocking a punt gives the team a boost with field position,” Hatton said. “It gives the team a great feeling and gets a team hyped. It’s an extra heartbeat. It’s not just about individuals on offense or defense, it’s about all of us on the team.”
Steven Broadus, a senior defensive back, leads the Kewpies with two blocks. Broadus’ most recent block came last week in the Kewpies’ win against Fort Zumwalt West in the quarterfinal. Broadus said the extra day of practice before the Fort Zumwalt West game paid off for him and the team.
“Last week we spent a whole day just focusing all on special teams,” Broadus said. “All of practice we worked on kickoffs, blocking punts and kickoff returns. Having a whole day for that was really good for us.”
Broadus said he considers himself a leader on all of special teams, not only when it comes to blocking a punt.
“I try to get every tackle on kickoffs and try to get every punt block I can, and I try to spread it around a little bit,” Broadus said.
Hatton said he agreed that Broadus has established himself as a leader.
“Steven is a great athlete,” Hatton said. “He has proven to me and all his teammates that he is a consummate team player and a great guy.”
Last year, though, Broadus was far from assuming the leadership role on special teams. Broadus left the Kewpies during the 2002 season, but said he returned this year because he missed the game.
“I really didn’t feel it as much as I did my sophomore year,” Broadus said. “I wasn’t really into it as much. I mean, I wish I wouldn’t have quit, but I’m really glad I got back into it.
“Watching tape of sophomore year and watching the NFL and other stuff convinced me that I missed it, so I came back.”
Nesbitt said he enjoyed welcoming Broadus back to the team and watching him succeed.
“Steven is a great story,” Nesbitt said. “He dropped out of our program his junior year. He came back and didn’t see immediate success. It is very rewarding to see a guy like him persevere and see him have some success even this late in his career.”