Something truly special: Blue Devils use kicking game, special teams to their advantage
QUINCY — Justin Beaver understands what matters most.
Although the Quincy High School football team’s senior placekicker remains ready to kick a field goal if need be, he hasn’t been called on to do so once this season. When your offense averages more than six touchdowns per game, field goals aren’t really necessary.
“I like kicking my PATs because that means we got in the end zone,” Beaver said.
It also means he gets to watch the kickoff coverage team attack with aggression.
Much of the Blue Devils’ success — they are 10-0 heading into the Class 7A second-round playoff game against Wheaton North at 2 p.m. Saturday — has been predicated on taking advantage of field position.
Defensive stops have been critical to that, but so have special teams. Beaver and senior kicker Ben Hogge continually force teams to field kickoffs deep in their own end or they drive the ball into the end zone for touchbacks.
At the same time, the coverage unit led by junior Jack Hammock has been dynamic in making stops and pinning opponents inside their 25-yard line.
“Those guys have the want-to and the will to make a play,” QHS coach Rick Little said. “They’re saying, ‘I’m not going to get blocked. I don’t care what happens. It’s a big field and they may be running the other direction, but I’m going to make that tackle.’”
No one does that better than Hammock, who is among QHS’s three leading tacklers with nearly a third of his total stops coming on special teams.
“For me, I love when people go down and make a play,” Beaver said. “Jack Hammock is one of my favorite people to be out there. Every time, he makes a play. He’s attracted to the ball. He makes plays. He gets down the field. He hustles. He doesn’t take plays off. That’s something I really respect as a kicker because then I don’t have to make a tackle.”
Every special teams play made helps set up the offense to generate points, which is why field position is so important.
“That ability to flip the field, the ability to create field position, that’s an enormous deal,” Little said. “We’re still going to be aggressive, but we’ll still take that into account as well when we call the game and play the game.”
Creating special teams units that get the job done allows the Blue Devils to be aggressive.
“We put good players on special teams,” Little said. “That’s our kickers. That’s our returners. That’s our coverage guys. They are talented kids who understand the game. They understand how important special teams is.”
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