When the Morris and Minooka varsity football game gets underway Friday night, there is a 50-50 chance Redskins’ senior kicker Jake Reed will be kicking off the season. He’s one of a handful of returners for the Morris special teams unit this fall.
“Last year not a lot of people knew about Jake because he was behind Fernando (Del Toro), who was the starter for us, but he’s got a very strong leg and he has shown good accuracy,” Morris coach Alan Thorson said. “His kickoffs have been consistently inside the 10 yard line, if not in the end zone. We’ve watched him kick in practice and basically make 45 yarders. He’s got a very strong leg and we are pretty anxious to see what he can do.”
Morris offensive coordinator Bill Lauer thinks Reed can do a lot.
“Jake has come into his own here. He has gone to a couple of kicking camps over the summer and we like what we’ve seen out of him,” he said. “He has a real strong leg and he’s been putting kicks into the end zone. We’re hoping he can continue to do that. Extra point and field goal wise, he also has a pretty good leg. We’re confident with him under 35. We’d probably even give him a shot from 40 during a game.”
Last fall, Reed made all eight of his extra points and was out there for more than 10 kickoffs, as well. However, none of them were touchbacks.
“This year my kickoffs have been real strong. I’m happy about that. I’ve put in a lot of time in the offseason,” Reed said.
“A lot of weightlifting to improve my leg strength. I visited a performance instructor – Nick Setta – and I also practiced, practiced, practiced.”
Of course that is just one part of kicking game, with punting being the other.
“Right now, Matt Darlington is probably leading the way over Cody Decker,” Thorson said. “It’s been a pleasant surprise because we have three guys [including Reed] who can punt this year.”
Lauer said it has been an interesting battle to watch.
“Matt and Cody are both punting the ball pretty well. They’ve both surprised us in coming in and trying to replace Preston (Miracle),” he said. “We have a nice little competition going on between the two of them and it will probably come down to who can angle the ball better and who can get the punts off with some speed without getting it blocked.”
The long snapper spot is also on solid footing Thorson said.
“We have another nice surprise there. We have two juniors who can long snap. Robbie Meucci does a really good job of that,” Thorson said. “We’ve been spoiled by having such good long snappers over the years. Last year, it was Nik Countryman and Danny Friend when he got hurt. Robbie is actually on our starting defense, so when we run scout, Josh Hulbert has stepped in and done a good job.”
Once the punt is off, and the kickoff for that matter, then there are the gunners.
“You definitely have to have those guys who can cover on punts. Right now Kyle Hill is really good at it,” Lauer, who also doubles as the special teams coach, said.
“The problem is that we are going to have to give him some rest at some point and special teams just may be where it’s going to be.”