JERSEY SHORE - Special teams play can be very important, and in Friday night's opener between Troy and Jersey Shore, that was quite apparent.
Special team play was quite special to Troy from the outset as the Trojans took advantage of a couple of good kicks and a solid return to set themselves up with good field position that resulted in a couple of first-quarter scores.
Leading 14-0 after one quarter, the Trojans outscored the Bulldogs 12-6 the rest of the way to walk off the field with a 26-6 victory.
"I thought the kids executed very well and I am very proud of them for their effort tonight," said Troy head coach James Smith. "We didn't make a whole lot of mistakes, but we have to get better. I don't think we are in shape yet so we have to work on our conditioning and try to get better for next week."
Shore head coach Tom Gravish felt it was a situation of missed opportunities by his club and a more consistent effort by Troy.
"I thought Troy played a more consistent game than we did in all three phases," said Gravish. "We tried to do some things in all three phases of the game to put ourselves in a good position, but it wasn't enough."
Following a short Shore punt and a nice return, the Trojans set up shop at the Bulldog 28. From there, Troy quarterback Jed Wright picked up one on first down before scampering untouched for the final 27 yards and the touchdown on the next play.
"That punt return really hurt us," said Gravish. "We tried to emphasize to our guys that special teams are as important to a game as anything, especially in high school football and even more in the home opener. That first punt return set them up in a nice position because when it is your first possession and you have the ball at about the (opponent's) 30-yard line, you can relax a little bit."
Later in the opening quarter, the Trojans again had a good return of a Shore punt to the Bulldog 25, and this time, it only took them three plays to hit paydirt, Isaac Havens scoring from ten yards out. Macclaren made it 14-0 Troy with 1:42 still left in the first period.
With the Shore offense continuing to sputter, the Trojans opened the second quarter by driving from their own 15 to the Bulldog 5-yard line before the drive stalled. From there, Macclaren kicked his first of two field goals of the game, a 22-yard effort to push the Troy lead to 17-0.
Down 17, the Bulldogs tried to battle their way back and they also used the special teams approach.
Boone Costa set the Bulldogs up with a neat kickoff return as he swerved and juked his way downfield for 66 yards to the Troy 30-yard stripe. After a Shore pass fell incomplete, Utoah Agae-Naipo found the end zone when he ripped off a nifty run off the right side of his offensive line for the final 30 yards and the score.
"We had a couple nice runs by Utoah and Boone, but in the end, the difference was that they made more plays defensively against us than we did against them," said Gravish. "We just gave them too many big plays."