NORWICH – Special teams play is often an overlooked or under-practiced detail in high school football. But to paraphrase a famous quote, “excellence comes in the details.”
Norwich had difficulty moving the ball on offense, and its defense did a lot of bending against Sidney. Yet, the clearcut dominance in the third phase of the game – special teams – provided the difference in a 20-14 Tornado win over the Warriors Friday night.
In Norwich’s only appearance at home this month, the host club forced three turnovers, stopped three Sidney possessions inside the NHS 15, and the majority of the winning team’s points came through special teams play.
“Our kicking game, what else can you say?” said Norwich coach John Martinson, pointing out the excellent placekicking of sophomore Zan Stewart and punting of senior Kyle Edwards.
The other aspect of note was another clutch return for a touchdown that quickly stifled some Sidney momentum. After the Warriors drew to within 7-6 on the first play from scrimmage in the second quarter, Tornado returner Keagan Franklin accepted the ensuing kickoff and raced 83 yards for the touchdown.
It was the second kickoff return for a touchdown in as many weeks for Norwich, who capitalized on a Sidney offsides penalty that moved the kickoff back five yards.
“Believe it or not, we have been focusing on our return game a little bit more this year,” Martinson said. “We knew the ball was moved back, so we had our upbacks move up so they didn’t have that five- to seven-yard wait before getting to the wedge.