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Archive for Thursday, October 26, 2000

Special teams emphasized at Baker

October 26, 2000

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— John Frangoulis excused himself and ran onto the practice field.

"I'll be back in about 10 minutes," said Frangoulis, now in his fifth season as Baker University's head football coach.

Sure enough, Frangoulis returned in about 10 minutes. That's all the time he had needed to polish the Wildcats' punt coverage team during an afternoon practice session.

"I have two other coaches work with the kickoff teams," Frangoulis said. "But I coach the punt team, and that's all I coach."

Frangoulis doesn't disagree with the old saw that offense sells tickets, and defense wins football games. He just believes special teams are more important than either offense or defense.

And it shows.

Baker wouldn't have won last Saturday night's game against Evangel in Springfield, Mo., 19-14, if the punt coverage team hadn't produced eight points a safety and a touchdown.

Both were blocks by Mark Emry, the Wildcats' free safety. A second-team NAIA All-America selection last year, Emry has blocked four kicks this year.

"Special teams are sometimes what separates the good teams," Frangoulis said, "and they were the difference on Saturday night."

Frangoulis doesn't mess around. He uses his best athletes on the punt team players like NAIA All-American defensive tackle Carlos Grace and Mackie Valentin, the 'Cats' leading receiver who covered Emry's blocked punt for the TD at Evangel.

"We started putting our starters on the special teams three years ago when we didn't quite have the athletes we needed," Frangoulis said. "We've stayed with it."

Emry, a 5-10, 164-pounder native of Peculiar, Mo., seems to have a peculiar talent for blocking kicks. In the season opener at Southwestern, Emry blocked a field-goal attempt and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown.

Emry needs one more block to tie the school single-season record. Moreover, he leads the Heart of America Conference in interceptions with five and in pass deflections with 12.

Quite likely, Baker will need all of its special teams' guile and more when the Wildcats tangle with unbeaten Benedictine at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Liston Stadium.

The Ravens lead the league in both offense and defense. Baker, meanwhile, is also unbeaten, although with an asterisk. Graceland forfeited its 24-21 win over the 'Cats for using an ineligible player.

If Benedictine wins Saturday, the Ravens will have only Graceland (2-5) and league doormat Central Methodist (2-6) remaining. Baker still has once-beaten and No. 9-ranked MidAmerica Nazarene (7-1) and Missouri Valley (3-4) on its schedule.

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