MORGANTOWN — It worked to perfection.
And it was the perfect way to secure momentum, and an eventual lead, that Morgantown would not relinquish.
In the second quarter of last week’s matchup with Fairmont Senior, the Mohigans attempted an onside kick with the score tied 7-7. Zaiiden Lockett dove and secured the ball, giving Morgantown great field position to set up the ensuing drive, capped off by a Caleb Nutter touchdown to make it 14-7 and MHS went on to win, 21-19.
While it was the quick reaction and sure-fire hands of Lockett that put the Mohigans (5-1) in that position, it was the foot — and brains — of kicker Aidan Stire that set up the play.
“I feel like everything about the kick went perfectly on that critical play,” Stire said. “My team was ready for it. I lined up and hit it just right and then when Zaiiden came up with it, it was just a moment of peace and happiness because I just knew we had the momentum.”
Just a few minutes before, that might not have been the case.
Stire read the field on his first kick of the night and noticed where the Fairmont receiving team was set up. He also had the intuition, and the confidence from his coaches, to do what he felt was right at the last minute.
“The first time I went out there and I kicked it deep left in the end zone, I saw No. 5 (Dylan Ours) fully shifted to the left side,” Stire said. “So the second time we went to kick off, I told coach John Fowkes (MHS special teams coordinator) about that space and he said, ‘I trust you, whatever you see, go for it.’ And that’s what really gave me the confidence to go out there and execute.
“The call was still deep left, but the coaches put their trust in me to make the right audible whenever we lined up. There are the types of situations that the coaches have me work through and we talk about during practice.”
MHS head coach Sean Biser has praised his special teams unit all season. It’s clearly just as important as the other phases of the game and when the unit executes its gameplan, good things are bound to happen — like they’ve shown for the Mohigans.
“We work a ton on special teams and kids are doing what we coach them to do,” Biser said. “It’s just another phase of football and we put a lot of time and effort into it and it’s helped us all year long.”
Morgantown practices onside kicks and recoveries at some point each week during practices. Stire has been honing in on sky kicks, which elevate the hangtime of a kick, giving the coverage team enough time to run downfield and get in the return man’s face, or attempt to recover a botched return.
“The placement part just comes with lots and lots of repetition and working to place the ball right where you want it, while giving it height and hangtime,” Stire said. “I feel like the more you practice at this, it’s one of those skills that the better you become at ball placement.”
He’s able to work on this facet of the game on the soccer field. For the Mohigans soccer team, Stire has 11 goals this season and seven of those are from free kicks, three of those came from 50 yards out.
“That’s just another opportunity to work on placing a ball where I would like it to be placed,” Stire said.
For the football team, Stire is 16 for 16 on PAT kicks and is averaging just over 40 yards per punt.
The Mohigans’ next opportunity for a win comes tonight against Parkersburg South (4-2). The Patriots fell to Bridgeport last week, 48-13. Morgantown beat Bridgeport in Week 2, 22-14.
“We had our backs to the wall (last week),” senior linebacker Jaylon Hill said. “We knew we had to come into the week focused.”
In 2022, Morgantown lost to Parkersburg South in an overtime thriller, 44-41.
“We know they will be a tough matchup and we’ve been working hard in practice,” Hill said. “We have that ‘bloody knuckles’ mentality.”
BY MATTHEW PEASLEE