Some might think of special teams as more of a formality, but there is a reason teams put it on the same level as offense and defense as one of the three phases of the game.
Special teams were a big reason that Sachse was able to pull out a 42-40 victory over Rowlett on Friday, thus causing the Eagles to miss the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
The Mustangs trailed 14-0, but battled back, getting some help from Rowlett along the way.
Facing a third consecutive punt to start, they rolled the dice on fourth-and-17 from midfield and called for a fake punt. It caught Rowlett off guard and Matthew Carter picked up 34 yards to set up their first score and change the complexion of the game.
Midway through the second quarter, Sachse forced a punt, but the snap was high, allowing the Mustangs to tackle the punter for a safety that made it 14-9.
They then took advantage of good field position after the kick to score the go-ahead touchdown.
The same scenario played out on Rowlett’s next drive with another high snap on a punt attempt, with Sachse netting another safety to go up 18-14 with 1:54 left in the half. They nearly got more points courtesy of special teams, as Matthew Carter returned the ensuing kickoff to the Eagle 35, but had a field goal blocked.
In the fourth quarter, Addison Perez, who was 5-of-5 on extra points, drilled a 24-yard field goal.
Every one of those plays made a huge difference in a two-point margin and was one of the primary reasons why Sachse has a share of the 10-6A title and Rowlett’s season came to an end.
Mesquite’s special teams also played a huge role in three early wins.
In the opener against Lake Highlands, Gary Green returned a kickoff 71 yards to the end zone, Tyler Raleigh-O’Neal had a blocked punt return for a touchdown and Danny Castaneda kicked a field goal as they accounted for 15 points in their 21-6 victory.
Two weeks later, Raleigh-O’Neal had another blocked punt return, Ja’Darion Smith had a 81-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Castaneda kicked two field goals in a 48-21 win over Plano West.
Then in their first district win, Raleigh-O’Neal’s third blocked punt return for a touchdown was a huge play in their 49-39 victory against Rockwall-Heath.
The other area playoff teams also have impact players on special teams. Poteet’s Jalen Hodo and Jailyn Graham are each big-play return threats, Dallas Christian’s Parker Robertson had a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown in a big win over John Paul II and Sunnyvale’s Landry Laird had a 71-yard kickoff return for a score last week.
Here is a look at some of the other highlights from Week 11:
--Sachse was able to do just enough to hold off Rowlett on Friday. Shon Coleman had another big game on the ground, rushing for 179 yards and three touchdowns behind solid offensive line play led by Jaivon Ellison. Quarterback Xavier Forman made several big plays and was named the game’s offensive MVP after accounting for 150 total yards and two scores.
--Sunnyvale put together an efficient outing on Friday, scoring 42 points on only 33 plays in the 42-20 win over Farmersville. Luke Griffin took a majority of the snaps, completing 7-of-9 passes for 102 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Noah McDill (6-88). Both Emmanuel Arinze (3-114, TD) and Alex Luna (4-109, TD) went over 100 yards despite having fewer than five carries. They also used a little trickery as wide receiver Will Van Vessem threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to Ashton Wright.
--Rowlett junior Tre Carr was making his first varsity start and it was an impressive debut. Carr completed 20-of-25 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 23 times for 79 yards and a score. Senior Tre'von King was the primary target, finishing with a season-high 12 catches for 177 yards and scores of 10 and 45 yards. Sophomore Colton Yarbrough continued his strong finish to the season with 11 carries for 77 yards and two touchdowns, highlighted by a 49-yarder on his first touch.
--There were not many bright spots for Horn in its 42-14 loss to Tyler Lee, but Ben Wyatt was one of them. The senior had 150 yards on only nine carries, highlighted by a 56-yarder and a 16-yard touchdown run.
--North Mesquite saw its season come to an end with a 34-21 loss to Rockwall-Heath on Thursday. Junior quarterback Liam Thornton continued to make strides, accounting for 224 total yards and two touchdowns. He completed 13-of-21 for 166 yards, with Kamaury Thompson (5-64) and Torrion Smith (4-59, TD) the top targets.
--Dallas Christian quarterback Zack Haaland continued to do a little of everything in their 45-27 win over Tyler Grace Community. Haaland completed 7-of-14 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns and added 15 carries for 181 yards and three scores on the ground. Garrett Tillett, Peyton Veasley and Parker Robertson caught touchdown passes, with Robertson’s going for 82 yards.
--The Sachse defense gave up 40 points, but made two key stops on two-point conversion attempts to preserve the win. Jordan Brooks was named defensive MVP after recording 12 tackles, two for loss, and forcing a fumble. Scotty Jesmer had 10 stops, with one for loss, and Josh Washington was big up front with six solo tackles.
--Horn’s Nick Garcia led the defense on Friday with 14 tackles. Keidrin Walker and D’Edrick Dotson each had nine stops, with the latter having two tackles for loss, Malik McDonald had two tackles behind the line of scrimmage and Evan Williams recorded a pair of pass breakups.
--Last week wasn’t Poteet’s best performance in the 63-21 loss to McKinney North, but there were some standout efforts. Jalen Hodo posted a team-high 12 tackles and forced a fumble. Miles Garner had a good all-around game with 10 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery and Brenton Hamilton also made 10 stops. Jahmad Jackson added nine tackles and Bryce Hamilton forced and recovered a fumble.
--Junior Jake Taylor led the Sunnyvale defense with 11 tackles against Farmersville, with Max McAda and Gage Andrews adding nine and six stops, respectively.