A Closer Look with Mark Miller – Week 2

Week 2 took us to Northwest for the Marlington game. Great weather, great setting and a very good football game. The Indians got out to an early lead but the Dukes hung in there and the winner was not decided until the final play when Northwest took a knee to run the clock out. This was a game that the stats pointed to a blowout but the only numbers that really matter, on the scoreboard, revealed it was a very tight game.
One of the plays that made a big difference was on a Marlington kickoff. The Duke’s kicker attempted to kick it high and relatively short, a “pooch” kick as it is often called. This is done to allow the kicking team to get down the field quicker and throw off the timing of the return. However, the kick was much shorter than intended and fell to the turf among the front row of blockers. This surprised the returning team players, the ball hit the turf, bounced up in the air and a Marlington player grabbed it and fell to the ground. Credit goes to the Duke that covered the ball and secured it for his team. In essence this was an onside kick – a kick that travels at least 10 yards and can be recovered by the kicking team. Although the kick wasn’t executed exactly as desired, it turned into a big play for the kicking team. Credit also goes to the Northwest coaches and players because the next time Marlington pooched a kickoff, an Indian player caught it and went to the ground to secure it for his team. If we don’t learn from our mistakes, they have a tendency to reoccur, right?
To finish off our discussion of onside kicks, there are several different ways to attempt one. The most common is when the kicker squibs the ball to one side of the field. Kickers practice long and hard to hit the top of the ball so that on it’s second bounce the ball pops up in the air. This makes it harder to catch for the return team and allows the kicking team a chance to grab it out of the air. The success of this method has been seriously lessened by the change in rules meant to make the game safer. It used to be the kicking team would send a first wave of players to block the returners and a 2nd wave of players to recover the ball. As the returners were trying to recover the ball they were getting “blown up’ by headhunters sprinting right at them. Limiting the kicking team to 5 players per side of the ball is another attempt to prevent ganging up on the return team. Good rule changes for sure!
Another way is when the kicker kicks a grounder that rolls just in front of him. As soon as the ball travels 10 yards, the kicker falls on it. The element of surprise is the key here so the front line of the return team drops back to block and leaves the kicker all alone to cover the ball.
Kick team coaches and players are always coming up with creative ways to onside kick to regain possession of the ball for their teams, so keep an eye out for something new.
This week the WHBC radio crew is at Tom Benson Stadium as McKinley hosts Dublin Coffman. Another very able opponent for the Pups but playing on home turf should help.