Special teams, the third facet of the game. They are often overlooked as offenses and defenses get all the credit for wins and losses, but well-executed special teams can win a game.
The Resurrection Christian School football team proved the worth of special teams Friday night, turning a close game into a comfortable lead in a matter of mere minutes, largely because of a couple of special teams plays.
Yuma opened the second half with a long kick return that turned into a touchdown a couple of plays later to make the score 20-14 in favor of RCS.
The Cougars (2-2, 1-1 North Central Conference) took the ball on the next drive and scored a field goal. Then on the ensuing kick, they booted the ball short, causing confusion and a loose ball that RCS pounced on. Quarterback Luke Mondt took advantage, hitting Aaron Gravatt for a 32-yard touchdown pass.
Then on the kickoff, RCS did it again, kicking the ball short and causing a fumble. Again the Cougars pounced on the loose ball, and again the offense took advantage, this time with a touchdown run by Dan McCreery. All of a sudden a six-point game had turned into a 36-14 lead for RCS.
“That was really huge,” RCS coach Rich Yonker said of the recovered kickoffs. “We knew special teams would be really important and those were two real key plays. Over the years we’ve had real success with that and it worked really well today. What can I say, those really turned the game around.”
The success didn’t come by accident. In practice before the season the Cougars would spend lots of time, sometimes 20 minutes or more, practicing the placement and pursuit of the short kick. That practice paid off Friday.
After the quick burst of points, Yuma (1-3, 0-2) was visibly deflated. The two teams traded empty possessions before Yuma scored a consolation touchdown in the final minute of the game. The final score was 36-22.
While the recovered kicks turned the game around, it wouldn’t have mattered if the offense hadn’t taken advantage. But all day long the Cougars mixed the run and pass to keep Yuma off balance. The Cougars threw the ball 23 times and ran it 31.
Mondt threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns, while McCreery had 118 yards on the ground.
“We were able to run and throw a little bit and I think that really helped us offensively move the football,” Yonker said.
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle at twitter.com/Kevin_Lytle