Few things in football are more deflating than a long kick return.
If a team punts the ball 35 yards and it is returned 40, that can be downright depressing – and a big momentum shifter.
“We call it flipping the field,” said Granbury head coach Scotty Pugh. “We’re trying to pin them deep, and they us, and if you can get a big return to set yourself up in great field position – or even score on the return – that is huge.”
Several area punt/kick returners “flipped the field” in their team’s respective games this past week. In three of the instances it helped them to convincing victories.
Kevin Hennard of Granbury had four returns for 128 yards, including a 71-yard punt return that had all but 22 yards wiped out by a penalty, in a 27-13 win over Wichita Falls. Garrett Winston of Tolar had three returns for 75 yards, and had another long return negated by a penalty, in the Rattlers’ 51-20 victory against San Saba.
Cornerstone’s Josh Beaird returned a pair of kicks for 120 yards as his team routed Wise County Home School 53-6. Also, while his team fell 63-16 at Zephyr, North Central Texas’ Tyler Hoskins had two returns totaling 67 yards.
Total for the quartet was an average of 35 yards on 11 returns. Some high school punts don’t even go that far.
There are ways to avoid such returns, Pugh said, but still at a risk.
“You can pooch kick, but often you still give up field position,” he said. “You’re not kicking deep to a guy, but you also don’t kick it very far.”
Hennard’s biggest return, a 50-yarder on a punt, set the Pirates up for their first touchdown, giving them the ball at the Wichita Falls 48. It came after a 36-yard punt by the Coyotes that would have pinned the Pirates at their own 8 yard line.
In Tolar’s victory, Winston had a 40-yard punt return that counted and another of equal distance that didn’t. Also, teammate Kaleb Gilliam added a 28-yard punt return.
PIRATES COULD HAVE
Following the example of coaches such as Mike Leach at Washington State (and formerly Texas Tech), Pugh said the Pirate captains will likely have several team captains throughout the course of the season.
Pugh said there is no set schedule to change captains, but depending on such things as performance and leadership, the position will see some changes.
The captains at the moment are seniors Tristen Gilmore, Alex Brown, Garrett King and Kevin Hennard.
“A lot of it is based on incentives,” said Pugh. “These four are as good in the classroom as on the field, and all had nearly perfect attendance in our summer workouts.”
BIG NIGHT FOR GRAY
Granbury sophomore safety Landon Gray had an impressive debut as a varsity starter, posting 19 tackles (three for a loss)in the win over Wichita Falls.
“He had a really good night, a REALLY good night,” said Pugh. “He was all over the place.
“If he’d had an interception, he might have been the top defensive player in the state. I’m not sure he wasn’t anyway.”
DAVIS RETURNING TO AREA
Former Granbury Pirate standout running back Brandon Davis is going to be in Dallas Saturday when Montana State takes on SMU. Davis transferred from Louisiana Tech to MSU this season.
Davis, a sophomore, rushed twice for 7 yards and caught a pass for 8 in the Bobcats’ 42-24 win over Monmouth last week.
REUNION FOR JOHNSON, FRIEND
When the Cornerstone Crusaders take the field Friday against the Azle Christian Crusaders, Cornerstone head coach Bobby Johnson will have a chance to catch up with an old friend, Azle Christian head coach Gary Rushing.
The two used to be on the same staff at Southwest Christian, and both are enjoying success in their current gigs. Johnson led his team two rounds deep in the Texas Christian Athletic League (TCAL) six-man playoffs in their first two varsity seasons. Rushing has coached his squad to back-to-back Texas Christian Athletic Fellowship (TCAF) state titles.
“And they’re favored again this year,” said Johnson.
The Crusaders switched from TCAL to TCAF this season, so it is possible the teams meet again in the postseason.
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