Like most teams, Mundy’s Mill puts a big emphasis on its special teams. The Tigers begin each practice session with work on the special teams. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
JONESBORO — As the Mundy’s Mill football team went through its pre-practice ritual of special teams work, offensive coordinator walked the sidelines telling everyone within earshot of the importance to detail.
“You can win or lose a game because of your special teams,” he shouted to the players.
At nearby Lovejoy, coach Al Hughes blows his whistle to start practice, and they begin with work on the special teams units.
“We start each practice with our special teams,” he said. “It is a very important part of the game. You have to pay a lot of detail to the special teams.”
And at Lovejoy it shows.
The punt return team has blocked 10 punts this season. Lovejoy also has three punt returns, all by standout junior wide receiver Preston Williams, returned for scores.
“Special teams is a big part of our program,” said Hughes, whose punt return blocked 39 kicks during the 2011 season. “In the last three years, we have probably blocked close to 100 kicks.”
Special teams is no longer a place where coaches use players that don’t normally get much playing time.
At Riverdale, no player is exempt from special teams duties.
“We are going to use our best players, because special teams is important,” said Riverdale defensive back coach Jason Bostic, who serves as the team’s special teams’ coordinator.
Bostic, a former standout at Georgia Tech, knows first-hand about special teams play. He played four years in the NFL primarily as a special teams performer.
“We tell our guys that they can’t take plays off on the special teams,” Bostic said. “Special teams is good for getting you field position on offense, and it can’t take it away for the defense. Special teams can definitely change the momentum of the game or cost you a game. You have to take it serious.”
And Hughes said that it is particularly important in the playoffs.
“Field position becomes a big factor late in the season,” said Hughes, whose team has made consecutive state final appearances.
The second-ranked Wildcats have one of the top placekickers in the area in Jamie Nunez.
“He has done a great job for us,” Hughes said.
“If you lose the special teams battle in a game, it is a good chance you will lose the game,” Mundy’s Mill coach Greg Manior said. “As a coach, you have to spend a lot of time on special teams. In the playoffs, your special teams has to be on point.”