For the brand: Special teams leads Pats to win

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Heritage Hills' Kyndell Carter scores a touchdown during Friday's football game in Lincoln City. Heritage Hills defeated Forest Park 46-0 as special teams played a major role in the victory for the Patriots. Carter and Cole Sigler both ran back punt returns for touchdowns in the victory while kicker Carson Leibering scored on a two-point conversion and knocked in a career-long field goal as well in the win. For more photos from the game, click here.

By HENDRIX MAGLEY
hmagley@dcherald.com

LINCOLN CITY — Heritage Hills kicker Carson Leibering knows the phrase “For The Brand”.

The slogan was created by former Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee to describe solid plays made by kickers, punters and other special teamers that helped to show the unit in a positive light.

Leibering is known for his solid field goal kicking and extra points but in Friday night’s 46-0 victory over PAC foe Forest Park he got to experience something else — the end zone.

After Kyndell Carter returned Forest Park’s punt for an 83-yard touchdown to make it 13-0 Heritage Hills (8-0, 6-0) early in the first quarter, Leibering marched out on the field for the apparent extra point.

However, the Pats had something special planned for the kicker as they called a fake field goal and Leibering scampered into the end zone for a two-point conversion.

“Ever since I was little I just loved running the ball so someday I wanted the opportunity to get into the end zone,” Leibering said. “Being able to put the ball in the end zone made me feel like a part of the team.”

Heritage Hills head coach Todd Wilkerson added: “Since his soccer season ended, he’s been able to spend a lot more time with us in practice and he’s a real athlete. He came up to me and said ‘Hey since soccer’s over, will you give me a shot?’. So we tried to lift his spirits a bit.”

Leibering

The theme of the night for the Patriots was special teams. It all started with Carter’s initial punt return for a touchdown that put the Pats up 15-0 after Cole Sigler scored the game’s first touchdown on a 15-yard scramble on a third down play. The solid field position was all set up by a Jacob Wetzel interception for the Patriots.

After Carter returned the punt for a TD, the Rangers (1-7, 1-5) had a drive that didn’t go very far and punter Drew Day got set up to punt once again. And just like the first time, this one was going to the house as Sigler took Day’s punt 47 yards to the end zone to make it 22-0 Patriots.

“We work very hard on special teams everyday,” Sigler said. “We take pride in it and we just came out tonight and tried to execute and we were able to get it done. It’s a huge part of games and I feel like it’s just a big energy booster too.”

Forest Park head coach Ross Fuhs felt that special teams ended up playing a major part in deciding how the final score looked at the end of the game.

“I mean, you can win and lose games on special teams and I felt like that really dictated the first half of the game,” Fuhs said. “They have a great wall set up like they always do and a lot of special teams stuff is just effort plays. Some of our guys didn’t get off blocks and do the things we do in practice and we have to do a better job of that going at full speed.”

Carter had his second touchdown of the game shortly before halftime as Sigler found him cutting toward the right sideline for a 14-yard touchdown reception to make it 29-0 at the halftime break.

The Patriots were able to add a few more touchdowns in the third quarter as Cade Jones and Alex Hasty both punched in rushing touchdowns to make it 43-0 at the end of the third quarter.

However, there was still one big special teams play left in the game for the Patriots.

Heritage Hills' Gavin Vaal is pursued by Forest Park's Nick Werner during Friday's football game in Lincoln City. One positive aspect that Forest Park head coach Ross Fuhs saw in the loss was an improvement on the defensive side of the ball as the Rangers constantly pressured the Patriot offense but just gave up a few too many big plays. For more photos from the game, click here.

With 7:50 left in the game, Wilkerson sent Leibering out to attempt a field goal. Obviously, field goals are nothing new to the senior kicker but this one was as Leibering had never made a 40-yard field goal in his high school career — until Friday.

Leibering’s 41-yard field goal sailed through the uprights with ease and potentially could have even been good from 45 or 48 yards out.

“I usually don’t think about how long (a kick) is but I thought about this one because I wanted to hit it,” Leibering said. “I’m just thinking about seeing it go through (the uprights) and that’s about it.”

For Fuhs, the biggest positive for the Rangers in the loss was their continued improvements they’ve made on defense.

Even though Forest Park still gave up 46 points and almost 300 total yards of offense, the Ranger head coach has noticed tons of growth in his team’s defensive unit and hopes to see that continue into their final game against Tell City next week.

“I thought our defense had a lot of really nice stops in the first half and I think without a few big special teams plays, it could’ve been just 14-0 at halftime the way our defense played,” Fuhs said. “Those guys have gotten better and better each week — they go out and play hard, they make tackles and they’re executing the gameplan.”

While both teams still have one regular season battle left until the postseason begins (the Patriots will face Spencer County foe South Spencer), there’s no question that both squads are looking forward to this Sunday’s sectional draw.

However, both teams know that they must keep their teams attention focused on the game ahead instead of what lies down the road in the postseason.

“We’re excited about the draw but we need to be focused for Tell City because we still need to get better for our sectional game,” Fuhs said. “A win would be huge, it’d be a big momentum swing going into sectional.”

Sigler added: “We just have to continue to get better and take it one week at a time. We’ll celebrate this one but then on Monday, we have to get ready for South Spencer and keep trying to find ways to improve.”




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