Offensively, North DeSoto defies description: it has a diverse quality that separates it from Georgia Tech’s flexbone and the willingness to throw out of and modify that formation is as close to unique as it gets in a world of coaches that share ideas with one another. It might be best to call it eclectic and move on.
Whatever it is, North DeSoto’s special teams philosophy isn’t far from it.
Where most other teams might hide from Neville’s proven knack for blocking punts or returning kicks for a big play, North DeSoto has a different idea: it’s not a given the Griffins will actually forfeit possession. Onside kicks and fake punts are a staple of North DeSoto football that the Tigers have zeroed in on leading up the matchup with the Griffins in the quarterfinals.
“I don’t know if risk is the right word, but they’re very aggressive in the kicking game,” Neville coach Mickey McCarty said. “They onside kick it a lot, which is another thing we’ll have to do a great job of this week. They’ve run some fakes in the kick game to try to steal some possessions, so I’m sure we’ll see all of that this week and get prepared for it.
“They’ll announce that it’s coming. They’re not hiding it, it’s not one of those. They’ll line up for it and they’ve got a scheme to kick it left, right or in the middle. It’s a turf field they have, so the ball will bounce all kinds of ways. Good kicker and great scheme to do those things.”
Neville special teams coordinator Paul Guerriero has installed an array of adjustments to combat North DeSoto’s diverse kickoff game that combines familiar concepts with new threats off of them.
“They’re very multiple. Besides onside kicks, they have squib kicks, sky kicks. They signal in from the sideline so they’re reading the defense trying to see where the hole is,” Guerriero said. “Their kicker is very good. They signal in, tell him where to kick and I think he’s on the money pretty much every time of what they want to do.
“Just an adjustment of our formation, it’s not so much of an overhaul. The good thing is, through the meat of our district, we faced some teams that do some short kicks, some squib kicks. We’re in good shape with that. The formation we’re in now, we’ve been in it before. Our personnel has seen those type of kicks before, (North DeSoto) just mixes in the onside with it, that’s what throws a kink into it.”
North DeSoto is just as much of a trick play threat when it lines up to punt as it is in its kickoff formations: so much so that Guerriero has only seen the Griffins run two different fake punt plays but he, “feels very strongly they’ve done more out of the games we’ve seen.”
“Our basic return is, for the most part, a safe punt: we protect all the way the ways they could fake it regardless, even if we do have the return set up,” Guerriero said. “They do have a little different formation in punt, but we’ve seen different punt formations. We’ve seen Tioga put every single one of their guys on one side of the ball. I feel like our guys are going to adjust to the formation.”
Regardless of how Guerriero thinks the threat will come, he plans on warning his punt return unit for the fake every time they touch the field – and McCarty expects those warnings to be justified.
“They’re the kind of team where I think you have to be ready for the onside every time and you have to be ready for a fake punt every time,” he said. “That’s one thing we’ve talked about to our guys is impact plays on special teams, and stopping a fake punt is an impact play.”
McCarty added, “In a playoff game, playing the 1 seed in the tournament, I’m sure they’re going to take some chances.”
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