St. Joseph looks for early spark against Schulenburg
By BY WILL BROWN - WBROWN@VICAD.COM
Sept. 2, 2011 at 4:02 a.m.
Putting the "Special" in Special Teams
Special teams may not decide the outcome of the contest, but the powerful kicking legs of St. Joseph's Patrick Sohrt and Schulenburg quarterback/punter/kicker Kyle Bludau will dictate the starting field position Friday.
"Eventually, if you play good defense and do your job the field will shorten some - if you play good defense," said Schulenburg football coach Tommy Bludau. "Even with good punters that both of us have, it will shorten the field some."
Sohrt can put kickoffs out the endzone, while his counterpart knocked his only punt against Van Vleck 57 yards.
"Driving the length of the field - which is driving 80 yards - or driving 40 or 50 yards is a big difference," said St. Joseph football coach Donnie Slatter. "I think field position is always key. ...The average starting position may end up on the 20 yard line as opposed to the 30 or 35 yard line because of kickoff returns. It's going to be fun to watch."
Schulenburg was impressive in its 2011 season opener. Its opponents Friday night, not as much. Nevertheless, the Shorthorns contest against St. Joseph might be decided by the team that gets off to the faster start.
The Shorthorns' turned the ball over on their first two possessions in a 55-8 rout over Van Vleck, while the Flyers dovetailed in the opening 24 minutes of their 16-6 loss to San Antonio TMI.
"We were all nervous when we lost the 10 points, but as we started kicking it in gear, our energy and our game faces kicked on after we started losing points," said St. Joseph senior linebacker Sean Ferrell. "We all stiffend up and we were ready for the offense's next play to come."
Ferrell said the Aug. 26 loss allowed his team to overcome any nerves and anxieties it might have early in contests.
Certainly, the Flyers will need to play for all 48 minutes. If a 42-13 loss to the Shorthorns last year did not get their attention, watching film of a Schulenburg team that gained more than 500 (221 rushing, 303 passing) yards in that game certainly did.
"We have to treat every play like it's a fight," Ferrell said. "Football is a very physical game. We have to give it our all, just like in any physical fight. It's a fight for accomplishment, for motivation and for victory."
Jacob Langhamer said Schulenburg's success starts in practice. During the preseason the Shorthorns were not crisp in practice and that showed up in their scrimmages. The senior defensive back and wide receiver, who caught an 85-yard touchdown pass Friday, said his team has practiced better the last two weeks.
"Everything that comes with allowing eight points and 200 yards comes with the hard work ethic you put in the week before," said Langhamer, who finished with four receptions for 117 yards and the long score. "I am a firm believer that if you work hard in practice throughout the week it will pay off Friday night and we will do things the right way."
He's also a firm believer that turning the ball over three times - as was the case Friday - is going to be a thing of the past.
St. Joseph fumbled the football five times and lost possession in three of those instances. Both head coaches said winning the turnover battle will be critical to controlling the tempo of tonight's game.
"We have to shut down the big plays, wherever that is," said St. Joseph football coach Donnie Slatter. "In that (victory over Van Vleck) they had a couple long runs and a couple long passes they completed for touchdowns. We have to take that away."
"We have to shorten the field so to speak and keep everything underneath us, under control and make plays. They are a good team. They are going to make a few plays. They are going to make some good plays. We have to continue to play and not hang our heads."
It might be easier said to remain optimistic, especially if the Shorthorns are able to stifle the Flyers' physical ground-based attack. St. Joseph averaged 4.5 yards per carry on the ground with Kion Wells and Marcus Rendon, a figure that gives the Flyers confidence their renovated offense will continue to improve.
Schulenburg wide receiver Ryan Havrda said his team's goals for the game are to continue to click offensively and post the shutout they narrowly missed against Van Vleck.
"It's always good to be in a routine," said Havrda, who caught four balls for 79 yards in the season opener. "Every day brings more excitement. It's getting closer to those Friday night lights. It's fun to pound on someone else instead of your own people."