TIOGA CENTER — If you hang around football coaches long enough you will certainly hear them talk about winning all three phases of the game — offense, defense and special teams.
Special teams may get talked about the least, but Tioga coach Nick Aiello saw last week how big the third phase can be for a team.
Down 6-0 after Walton dominated much of the opening quarter, Tioga sophomore Emmett Wood took a kickoff 87 yards to the house, senior Brady Worthing nailed the extra point — and the Tigers had the momentum.
The Tigers would later use a 24-yard field goal from Worthing, who had never kicked before this year, on their way to a 23-20 season-opening victory.
“Special teams proved they can be momentum swings both ways. We had positives in our kick return, had some good kickoff coverage and also that field goal,” Aiello said. “But at the same time we botched an onside kick and had a bad snap on a punt and those were momentum swings for them. Special teams, they are big plays and have big-play capability and you have to execute.”
The Tigers will be counting on Wood, who is also the team’s top running back, and Worthing, the team’s quarterback, to lead the way both on offense and in special teams all season long.
“Really they are two of the four starters that we have back and they are a big piece of that. Those two are the core of the backfield, and everything is really built around those two. We’re trying to catch everybody else up, but they definitely lead the way for us,” Aiello said of Wood and Worthing.
While a major part of their role will be when the Tigers are on offense, both Wood and Worthing proved last week they can make noise on special teams.
“It was a huge play, and I feel like it gave a sense to the guys that everything was going to be all right, you just got to keep chipping away and doing the little things right,” Aiello said of Wood’s kickoff return TD.
“I think it was everything. The momentum switched right after that,” added Wood, who credited his teammates with clearing the way. “(I saw) just one guy (to beat). We had perfect blocks the whole time, so it was nice and easy.”
One downside of taking one to the house early on in the season is that opposing teams might think twice about kicking it his way — and the sophomore knows it.
“I just hope people keep kicking it to me,” said Wood, who also ran for 87 yards and two scores last week against Walton.
When it comes to Worthing putting points on the board with his leg, this is all new territory for the senior QB/kicker.
“He’s just athletic, and over the summer during our mini camp, we tried a bunch of kickers, and he was the one that kind of stuck out,” Aiello said.
So what’s Worthing’s mindset heading into an extra point or field goal.
“This is my first year. It’s just get up there, kick the ball and hope it goes through ... I just walk up, grab the ball and kick it as hard as I can,” said Worthing, who added 75 rushing yards and two extra points to his field goal last Friday night.
Aiello believes it’s all about Worthing’s athleticism and competitive nature.
“He goes out and nails a 24-yarder and that just kind of shows what’s between the ears when there’s a big pressure situation,” Aiello said.
With Wood and Worthing leading the way in the backfield and on special teams, the Tigers will once again be a dangerous squad in Section IV Class D — and possibly beyond.