Special delivery|Porters Chapel’s special teams wreak havoc for opponents

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 29, 2008

As the punt fluttered toward him Friday night, the most surprised person at Eagles Field might have been Clayton Holmes, Porters Chapel Academy’s ace returnman.

With the body of work he had compiled already, one would think opponents would have learned by now. Don’t kick to No. 13.

Holmes gathered in the punt, hit the seam like he always does, and zigzagged through the University Christian defense for a 46-yard return. The play set up one of four PCA touchdowns in a 6 1/2-minute span, leading to a 41-7 win, and was the latest special teams lightning bolt the team has used to its advantage this season.

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PCA has returned four kicks for touchdowns and blocked two punts. As a team, it is averaging 32.9 yards per return on kickoffs and punts.

“I’m not going to say we expect it, but that’s the goal,” PCA coach Randy Wright said of the team’s gaudy return average. “That’s not happening because we’re lucky. We work on it.”

Holmes has been PCA’s biggest weapon, by far, in the kicking game. He has more than 400 of PCA’s 657 return yards, and three of the four touchdowns. He returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown two weeks in a row against Prairie View and Veritas, and added a punt return TD against West Memphis, Ark.

“It helps to have a skilled return guy, and Clayton is a skilled return guy,” Wright said. “Some guys can do it and some can’t. He just has a knack for it.”

Holmes isn’t the only special teams weapon, though. Jason Greer has hit 30 of 34 extra points, and had a game-winning field goal in the final minute against River Oaks. The Eagles have also shown they can pressure punts as well as return them.

They blocked one against Veritas — which Wright didn’t call for, but came about when Josh Perry was unblocked — and got another one against University Christian. Perry’s punt block set up a short scoring drive in the Veritas game, and Jacob Rachal’s block on Friday was recovered in the end zone by Travis Thornell for a touchdown.

Like Wright, Holmes said the success on special teams is the result of hard work during the week. The team devotes most of Wednesday’s practice solely to special teams.

“Everybody’s doing a good job. We practice on it a lot. We’ll do special teams for about an hour and a half on Wednesday,” Holmes said. “It gives (opponents) one more thing to work on and put in their minds.”

It’s also yet another weapon for a PCA team full of them. The Eagles, ranked No. 1 in Class A, are averaging 32 points per game and have been held under 34 points just once so far. Holmes, who also plays quarterback, has nearly 1,000 yards combined rushing and passing in only six games, while tailback Perry has rushed for almost 700 yards and nine touchdowns.

Still, it’s been the returns and kicking game that have often put the spark in the offense.

“I think special teams really jump started us tonight,” Wright said after the win over University Christian. “Special teams is something we spend a lot of time on and it’s really paying off for us. It’s been a positive for us, no question.”