The Duncan Banner

Sports

June 5, 2014

Bulldogs focus on special teams in final day of football

EMPIRE — Empire football wrapped up its final day of camp Wednesday by focusing on special teams.

The first thing that coach Tony Roberts noticed is that he doesn’t have a kicker. Senior Anthony Gonzalez, who usually has the kickoff responsibilities, wasn’t there. So Roberts tried a couple of players out at the position. Sophomore Gio Murrilo stepped in and performed well, but there’s still a lot of questions that have to be answered.

Roberts said in Class A that’s not unusual. There’s always a chance for chaos when the punter has to trot out on the field in small-school football, and though senior quarterback Tanner Ford can do the long snapping, Roberts wants to find an alternative. Then he needs to find someone who can bomb the ball down the field.

“A lot of small schools don’t have those skill kids that can do that,” Roberts said. “If you get one, you’re lucky. So, we’ll just have to wait and see if somebody works out when we start the season.”

Roberts doesn’t have any questions when it comes to the return game. Both senior Dillon Twigg and junior Evan Whitt return to give Empire an outstanding return game.

“Anytime they punt or kick to them, it’s a potential run back,” Roberts said. “We know they’ll do a lot of kicking away from Evan and Dillon. They’ll do a deep onside kick and that’s one of those things that’s hard to adjust to if the kids haven’t played that spot up there.”

Roberts pointed out that the school’s main rival, Velma-Alma, is really good at the technique. He has put junior Mace Robinson and sophomore Cale Schreiner at those positions, because they have a little bit of speed just in case they have the ball kicked to them.

“I just don’t look for them to kick it deep to us very many times,” Roberts said. “They might do a lot of squib kicks or some things like that, because we have the potential of taking one back every time we touch the ball if we can block. It’s nice to have that comfort.”

Entering the summer camp season, Roberts didn’t have a lot of comfort with the experience on the offensive line. He made that the main goal, but the players still have work to do. He is excited about the tenacity that the kids have.

“The aggressiveness that we have been lacking is there now,” Roberts said. “They’ve totally surprised me and if we can keep that up, I think we’ll be OK.”

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