Category Archives: Uncategorized
SPECIAL TEAMS by Rich Stora
Many people either forget or just don’t know how essential special teams are to a team’s success. One out of every five plays in a football game is a special teams play. Offense and defense constitute the foundation of a football team but special teams bring it to the next level. Aside from the physical importance special teams play in a game, they also have a tremendous psychological importance. A single play on special teams can swing momentum to one team or another. A blocked kick, fumble recovery, or a good kick/punt return are morale killers for the players, coaches, and fans.
The first rule of special teams is to go all out all the time. Some players feel that a punt, kickoff, or field goal is a play during which they can rest. Nothing can be further from the truth. This is the time to pick it up. Players must sprint down the field on kickoffs and punts. They can leave the opposing team in poor field position, or better yet, force a turnoverdeep in the enemy’s territory.
The second imperative for special teams success is teamwork. It only takes one defensive player to make a tackle. A quarterback or running backcan carry an offense. A special teams unit, however, must all work together and be on the same page. A punter cannot punt and a returner cannot run without blocking.
The last rule for special teams is one that I hold myself to – keep it simple. There is no need to run reverses or complex blocking schemes onspecial teams. Players already have to study their offensive or defensive play books. Special teams is a time when you should flat out beat youropponent with superior technique and desire.
The New York Shark’s last game took place on a surprisingly chilly night in Syracuse. It was perfect football weather. It was also the Sting’s home opener and they were looking for payback. The Sharks had beaten Syracuse 34 -6 in New York just three weeks earlier. To top it off the Sharks just rode on a bus for 8 hours. The stage was set.
The first half provided the entertainment. Both team’s offenses, defenses, and special teams played hard-nosed, disciplined football. Theyplayed so equally well that the score was nearly deadlocked at 15 – 14, in favor of the Sharks, at halftime.
The second half provided the drama. The Sharks were shorthanded, injured, and fatiguing. They were also versatile. The entire team rose to theoccasion, including several players who played offense, defense, and special teams. Wanda Williams, normally a running back, played the entire game at middle linebacker. Due to injuries, she resumed her duties at running backwhile continuing to play linebacker and special teams.
With less than two minutes left in the game Wanda walked into the end zone through a monstrous hole created by the Shark’s dominant offensive line.This touchdown put the Sharks ahead 21 – 14. Undeterred, the Sting took the ball and promptly marched down to the New York 15 yard line. The Sharks defense bent but did not break, thwarting Syracuse’s attempts for the end zone. With 30 seconds remaining on the clock running back Courtney Eaton, filling in at linebacker, picked off a pass over the middle. The outcome ofthe game was no longer in doubt. The Sharks had beaten the Sting 21 – 14.
As a coach this game was a nail biting, heart racer. As a football fan I can say that it was one of the most exciting I have seen. I commend the Sting for their talent, effort and, professionalism. Good luck the rest of the way ladies, see you soon.
As for the Sharks, well they continue to amaze me. They made their fans,coaches, and staff very happy and proud with this victory. Why? Because theydid it with teamwork, desire, unselfishness, and relentlessness.
After a bye week we will be bringing you two issues of the coach’s corner this week. Special teams coach Rich Stora will be submitting his first contribution to the corner later in the week which will include a summary of the Syracuse game and his philosophy on special teams. Under his leadership, our special teams, especially our punting team, have been getting better every week. All too frequently, the special teams are a secondary if not forgotten part of game day preparation. However, our staff decided early on that we would attempt to give the special teams the equal status as the offense and defense and this decision has been key to our success this year. With the number of injuries we have had this year, much of our success has depended on Rich’s ability to correctly make frequent changes to the six separate units that make up special teams.
I would also like to thank defensive coordinator Bill Nash for his excellent submission last week. It is this type of cooperation I receive from the other coaches and the administration that makes coaching the New York Sharks possible. As a coach, Bill brings energy to the defense that is remarkable and has raised the level of intensity across the board.
I would like to thank the members of the Syracuse Sting organization who gave us the game of our lives last night. I must congratulate their coaching staff and players alike who have simply made one of the most remarkable transformations I have seen in coaching. On a cold, (at least by summer standards) and windy night, they rebounded from the one sided loss in New York to push us to the wall. It was only an interception by Courtney Eaton, as the Sting was marching deep in our end of the field with less than 30 seconds left that assured us of the victory. They have improved in all areas of their game and should be proud of their performance and I expect that they will continue to play at such a high level.
However, it was their assistance in dealing with issues we had with the transportation company that reminded me of how important it is for all of the teams to work together so that this wonderful dream can continue. With the news that many of the women’s teams are having financial difficulty and the reported folding of the Tampa Tempest, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you, the fans that all of this is only possible with your support. Sometimes, we forget how incredibly expensive it is to play this game and although the players make great physical and financial sacrifices, it is ultimately the support we receive from the fans that allows us to continue. To all of you, on behalf of all of the members of the Sharks organization, I extend our deepest appreciation for allowing all of us, (myself included), to finally chase our dreams. We will continue to reward you for your generosity with the best effort we can give on the field each practice and game, but I wish I could give each of you a well-deserved pat on the back and every member of the Sharks’ organization applauds each of you.
The team played extremely well in our opener against the New England Storm making owner Andra Douglas extremely proud. On a beautiful, sunny day, our 20-0 victory was the result of timely offense, great defense and opportunistic special teams play. The team was especially proud to play so well in front of the many fans who made the trip After all, it is your support, as always that helps drive the players to do their best.
The offense exploded for all 20 points in the second quarter. Led by Halfback Kathy Holloman’s 134 yards and two touchdowns and anchored by solid performances by the interior of the offensive line including Center Aurora Lighthart, Guards Beth Nugent, Amalia Hilliard and Anna “Tonka” Tate and Tackles Deb Wasilewski and Nikki Cerrato, we were able to handle New England’s multiple blitzing package and extremely physical defensive line well. The blocking of the receiving corps, led by Flanker Valerie “Peanut” Monaco, who scored our third touchdown, was also instrumental to our success.
On defense, solid performances by each of the linebackers, led by Missy Mamorale whose critical sack stopped one drive and who forced a fumble to thwart another, held the New England offense in check the majority of the game. The defensive line made critical plays during the opening drive of the third quarter and was instrumental in our goal line stand, which kept the score at 20-0 and essentially sealed the victory. The secondary led by veteran Free Safety Val Halesworth and Strong Safety “Blue” Hall virtually shut down the opponents passing game.
The special teams ensured that we won the battle of field position. Our Kicker Peanut Monaco and Punter Aurora Lighthart consistently kicked well and our coverage, which included a spectacular hit by Cha Chi Leon refused to allow New England significant return yardage. Our punt return team recovered a bad snap from center that led to a score.
Unfortunately, as thrilling as the victory was for us, as we prepare for our next game in North Carolina, we look to the players who are so important to us and who at the time of this writing are listed as questionable for Saturday. Each of them was injured during the game and those who cannot play will be missed. Football is a tough game and the time we have spent together has brought us closer. We wish each of them, including Amalia Hilliard, Monica Marsh, Kathy Holloman, Deb Grim, Kellie Eckstein, Missy Mamorale and Val Halesworth a speedy recovery. We also miss our teammates who were injured before the season started.
A final note: A fan has asked why we punted with so little time on the clock. (Thanks Dan King) That is a great question and just what I am looking for The Corner. The reason I decided to punt instead of running out the clock was that I felt the punting team needed the work. Although they are so important to the final result, not enough time is dedicated to special teams and nothing replaces repetitions that occur in game situations. Had the score been closer or the final result not determined, I would have done as Dan suggested.