October 7, 2010

The sweet sounds of special teams

Pacific Lutheran celebrates
Pacific Lutheran celebrated a field goal on the final play to beat crosstown rival Puget Sound, one of several big special teams plays last Saturday in Division III football.
Pacific Lutheran athletics photo

It is often said football is a game of inches. Last Saturday, in no fewer than six games across the country decided by remarkable special teams plays, the distance between winning and losing was better measured by sound.

There was Case Western Reserve coach Greg Debeljak overhearing his field goal block unit saying “We’re going to get this one.” There was the shouting from the grandstand at Widener as freshman Laquan Robinson returned a second punt for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against previously unbeaten FDU-Florham. And then there was what coach Ben McEnroe heard as he realized a game he thought his Cal Lutheran team should already have sealed would be decided by the foot of Redlands kicker Joe MacMillan.

“One of the sweetest sounds in coaching,” McEnroe said. “That double thump of a kick and a block.”

With 16 seconds left, MacMillan was attempting a 40-yarder to complete the Bulldogs’ comeback from down 21-9 at the half. Field goals of that distance are far from automatic in Division III, but MacMillan had made a 40-yarder earlier in the game and was 8 of 11 from 40 or beyond as a sophomore and junior, with a long of 47.

“You just feel like it’s out of your hands a little bit,” McEnroe recalls. “I had a time of introspection, or reflection. We had opportunities to ice it, and I was a little upset it even came down to that.”

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