Carson puts emphasis on special teams

Punter Brandon Gagnon sets the football for place kicker Jonny Barahona during afternoon practice.

Punter Brandon Gagnon sets the football for place kicker Jonny Barahona during afternoon practice.

Special teams is one part of football that has undergone a monumental change in the last 15 years.

No longer is it an area dominated by non-starters. It’s way too important not to have some of your top players out there, and you’re going to find the best teams are usually dominant on special teams.

Asa Carter, arguably Carson’s best player, and linebacker Ikela Lewis were both special team stalwarts a year ago. Carter blocked two punts and a field goal, and last year’s star defensive end Brady Rivera also blocked a field goal.

“I believe there is a role for everybody on a football team,” coach Blair Roman said. “There are certain players who aren’t starters, but are very good players, and hey can be very good special teams players. It’s all about finding where the player fits best.

“You don’t want a situation where a player never comes off the field, because players will take plays off. It’s inevitable. It’s better to have a fresh guy out there than to have some starter who is tired.“

Roman admits, though, there will be top-line players throughout his special teams units.

“That being said there are certain starters I want on the field for special teams,” Roman said. “It’s all about buying into (special teams). You don’t see it on the stat line, but those guys that play special teams or play on the scout teams and give our offense and defense good looks in practice are very important to the success of the team.”

The Senators are fortunate to have several ‘skill’ players back this year.

Elijah Fajayan averaged nearly 30 yards a kick return last year, and Brady O’Keefe (11.1 a return) and Matthias Williams (12.0) also saw action in that role. It’s possible Asa Carter could bring back kicks this year, too.

Another possibility is Greg Wallace.

“He was a dynamic returner on the JV squad a year ago,” Roman said.

O’Keefe was Carson’s main punt returner last year, and Roman expects him to fill that role again. He averaged 10.5 a return with a best of 44 yards.

A year ago, sophomore Johnny Barahona was the place-kicker entering the season.

He was 34 of 36 on PATs and 4-for-6 on field goals. He also averaged nearly 48 yards per kickoff.

Injuried plagued him later in the year, however, and Eddie Duarte filled in admirably in his absence.

Duarte was 13-for-13 on PATs, but made just one field goal in four attempts. Duarte averaged 36.2 per punt and nearly 50 yards on kickoffs.

Roman said Barahona has the advantage for PATs and field goals, but that it’s just a slight edge.

“We’ve been happy with his work over the summer,” Roman said of Barahona. “Who kicks off is still undecided.”

Junior Brandon Gagnon has inherited the punting job. He will also hold on place kicks.

A year ago, Carson used four different players — Barahona, Duarte, Asa Carter and Corey Reid — in that role. All four struggled with consistency.

“He (Gagnon) has a good leg, and he’s going to get better,” Roman said. “He reminds me of Casey Wolfe and Austin Pacheco.”

The success of the kicking game also hinges on blocking, and a good snapper.

Jake Guthrie, a solid snapper, graduated. Adam Domitrovich, Corey Jasper and Jake Roman are battling for the No. 1 spot.


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