HARRISBURG – There are three units to any football team. The third – special teams -- separates the good from the great, and Hickory Ridge seems to understand this.
The Ragin’ Bulls have a special player on its special teams unit in junior kicker Riley Stubbs, who consistently put Concord’s offense pinned against its end zone Friday night in Hickory Ridge’s 63-8 home victory.
In most cases, the special teams unit is an afterthought behind a team’s offense and defense. The Ragin’ Bulls, however, use it as they should, with Stubbs allow their defense to work with a long field at its back, which turns into offensive possessions on the plus side of the field.
“It means a lot because it allows us to use the end zone as a helper,” Hickory Ridge defensive coordinator Darren Shepherd said. “A lot of the time, we play with a lot of field behind us, and it kind of limits what the offense can do.”
Stubbs kicked seven touchbacks on Friday and added one intentional squib after the Bulls gave him nine attempts with their nine touchdowns.
Hickory Ridge saw the benefits of Stubbs’ leg on both sides of the ball, starting offensive possessions on the short side of the field every possession except two after defensive stops.
“So one of the things Riley Stubbs has done for us, on the kickoff, has been we score the touchdowns, and every time it’s out the end zone,” said Bulls head coach Jupiter Wilson. “It’s a good feeling that every time we start the series, teams have to drive 80 yards.”
All three unit’s worked together perfectly for the Bulls Friday night. Stubbs set up long fields for the Concord offense, which turned into short fields for the Bull offense, and most often quick scores. Stubbs made all but one of his extra-point attempts.
“Every day (I) practice my technique and do what I need to do,” said Stubbs. “It’s hard because sometimes you get injuries from it, but I just try to push through it every day, and that’s what I did today.”
Stubbs has been kicking since the sixth grade, working alongside his dad, Brad, who is the Bulls’ special teams’ coach, and former NFL kicker Jeff Reed, his personal kicking coach.
The elder Stubbs said that several years working with Reed, a former North Carolina Tar Heels kicker who won two Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers, has helped Riley learn what it takes to be successful.
“I think, especially with touchbacks, you just eliminate that chance for a runback,” said Brad Stubbs. “Especially with the athletes in this (Southwestern 4A) conference and in this area that we’re going to come up against, that’s just a good thing to have -- to be able to put it in the end zone against certain athletes.”
The three units of a football team must work together seamlessly for any team looking to make long playoff runs. No one will have to worry about the special teams in Harrisburg with Stubbs in town.