Just like a successful onsides kick in any quarter but the fourth, a fake punt stirs the juices.
“Coach called a fake punt because he believed in our offensive line and special teams,” said Campbell quarterback Lester Hughes of a key play in last Friday’s 42-21 win over South Range. “He ran it and it worked. It gave us energy to get the crowd going.”
Hughes was referring to Campbell’s first-year head coach Mickey Sikora who called for a fake punt that gained 20 yards to set up Campbell’s go-ahead touchdown.
Gimmick plays — successful or failures — are guaranteed to create a buzz, probably because football coaches on game day are so conservative that they make insurance agents look like daredevils.
Years from now, the one play we’ll all remember when we reflect back on Super Bowl XLIV was the onsides kick Saints coach Sean Payton gambled on to start the second half. Had the Colts recovered that kick, it’s hard to imagine quarterback Peyton Manning not taking advantage to extend their lead. Instead, the Saints are the NFL champions.
At Campbell’s John Knapick Stadium, Dan Yeagley’s scrappy Division V Raiders were standing toe-to-toe with the Division IV Red Devils. With the score tied 21-21 in the third quarter, the Raiders nearly had the Red Devils punting from their goal line.
But a personal foul penalty gave Campbell a second chance. And when the Red Devils moved the ball out to the 36 yard line, Sikora decided he needed to change the tempo.
“I thought it was the right time to try and gain some momentum,” Sikora said. “It worked pretty well.”
Instead of snapping the ball to punter Alex Sudacov, Campbell center John Sikora made a slight adjustment before hiking the ball to upback Charles Smith.
“My lead foot, I just put back a little bit and I snap it from an angle instead of straight on,” said Sikora of his technique.
The key, Sikora said, is for everyone to act like nothing special is about to happen and to keep the plan “very secret. The minute the defense knows something, that’s when it’s not going to work.
“We were fortunate that the defense didn’t [pick it up] because we actually switched one of our upbacks around.
“It was [a silent] signal] so the defense didn’t know what was going on,” the three-year letterman said. “We felt all week, because of what we had seen on film, that we could actually get one. So we took the chance and it paid off.
“It was a very huge victory,” Sikora said. “It was a very physical game and we were lucky to come out on top.”
Yeagley said, “That was a great play by them, great execution. They are a playoff team. You’ve got to play good sound football and you can’t make mistakes against quality opponents.
“You can’t give them the ball — they are so explosive and they are going to make things happen,” Yeagley said. “Coach Sikora and his staff did a good job preparing for this game, They took some things away that we were able to do [against Warren JFK].”
Campbell is off to its first 2-0 start since 1999 and is a contender for the All-American Conference Blue Tier crown. Leading the offense is Hughes with his ability to run and throw.
“Lester can do a lot of things with his legs as well as throwing the ball,” Mickey Sikora said. “He’s very difficult for defenses to zone in on.”
Hughes doesn’t mind handing off to his younger brother Ja’les, at tailback.
“There’s no rivalry, we both want each other to do well and strive for the best,” Hughes said. The Red Devils’ homestand continues with Liberty tonight, Brookfield on Sept. 17 and LaBrae on Sept. 24.
The Raiders (1-1) finish up their non-conference schedule tonight with Garfield Heights Trinity. Their battle for the Inter Tri-County League Tier One championship gets off to a fast start with Columbiana on Sept. 17 and Mineral Ridge on Sept. 24.