The Cartersville football team got off to a quick start offensively against LaGrange in Friday night's home game at Weinman Stadium.
It took six plays and under two minutes to find the end zone. While three plays covering at least 12 yards certainly helped, the biggest boost to the Canes' drive came before it even started.
Senior Kaleb Chatmon received the opening kickoff at his own 5-yard line on the right side of the field. He broke free down the sideline and it took a nudge from the Grangers kicker to keep the speedster from opening the game with a 95-yard touchdown.
Instead, he settled for a 46-yard return. Chatmon still got his touchdown, though, catching a 7-yard score to complete that first series.
The moment showed the impact special teams can have on a game, even when the unit doesn't produce a touchdown. Facing a notoriously stubborn defense, it was a huge advantage for Cartersville to start the game in LaGrange territory.
Due in large part to special teams, in particular the punt-return ability of Marko Dudley, the Canes dominated field position all night. The LaGrange punter generally got off long, line-drive punts that gave Dudley a chance to return.
The junior never let the first guy make a stop, usually breaking a few arm tackles to set his team's offense up with a short field. His confidence is perhaps his most impressive quality, fielding a short hop on one return as if he was a shortstop.
While the returns are a big part of special teams, Cartersville has been excelling recently in all facets of the all-important third phase.
LaGrange's Vondez Taylor had a couple of nice kickoff returns early, but Cartersville quickly corrected and bottled up the Grangers on a majority of the kickoffs.
After some early season issues, the kicking game has been strong in recent weeks. Sophomore Oscar Hernandez once again showed a strong, accurate leg on Friday.
Hernandez had no problem banging through each of his six point-after tries. He also easily converted a 34-yard field goal that he made look like a chip shot.
Overall, it's easy to see an improvement on special teams from Week 1 to now. With so many new players getting reps this season, most of the players on the field for offense and defense were inexperienced. But not enough people realize those same inexperienced players are on special teams units, too.
If the past few weeks are any indication, Cartersville is becoming more and more seasoned. And one doesn't need to look any further than special teams to see that growth.