The Newark Catholic coaching staff does not treat special teams like the ugly duckling.
Instead of throwing special teams into practice at the end of long days, NC sets aside time each day — but particularly on Mondays — to fine-tune the third — and often forgotten — aspect of the game.
“All of our coaches (contribute),” Green Wave coach Bill Franks said. “Our kids see how much energy we put in, and they see how important it is. They love to spend the time on it. Our whole Monday practice basically is special teams. It is kind of enjoyable to get away from the grind of just offense and defense.”
The work paid off Friday and helped keep NC alive. The Green Wave (10-2) blocked a punt for a score and also converted a key 2-point conversion with a fake in a 20-13 victory against Glouster Trimble (10-2) in a Division VI regional semifinal at Sheridan’s Paul Culver Jr. Stadium.
Late in the first quarter, NC forced the Tomcats to punt, and Brenden Jurden got a piece of the kick, which went just 12 yards. The next punt, the Green Wave did better.
Mike Lohr and Aaron Jurden came off each edge, and Lohr got the daily double, blocking the punt and returning it 20 yards for a score.
“For (Lohr) to not only block it, but field it and score on the same play, shows real athleticism on his part,” Franks said.
NC’s coverage units also were special. Patrick Oehlman dropped Austin Downs after just 10 yards on the opening kickoff. After the Green Wave took a 20-13 lead in the third, Trimble faked a reverse, but NC did not bite as Aaron Jurden smacked Trimble quarterback Konner Standley at the 17-yard line, a hit Franks called “breathtaking.”
“Special teams are huge,” Aaron Jurden said. “We practice them a lot. We just fly down the field, break down and make tackles.”
Both of Chayce Crouch’s punts were better than his 36-yard average. His first punt was 42 yards and forced a fair catch inside the Tomcats’ 20. His second punt initially bounced near the 20 and rolled out of bounds at the 3, covering 55 yards.
Two missed extra points were the only negative for the special teams. Lohr, however, got redemption after Crouch scored to put the Green Wave up 18-13 in the third quarter. Lined up at kicker, Lohr took a direct snap and carried off right tackle for the 2-point conversion.
“To us, special teams is a big aspect,” Aaron Jurden said. “If we can get some points off special teams, it helps our offense and defense with momentum.”