Starkey’s gamble pays off
New Trier's Frank Nicholas breaks away from Warren's Zhane Garcia during their game at New Trier in Northfield on Friday. | Kevin Tanaka~for Sun-Times Media
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Updated: October 7, 2012 7:48AM
WINNETKA — One of the numerous responsibilities of a football coach is to make decisions throughout the course of a game.
Some of those decisions are simple, like when to punt the ball on fourth down, or whether to go for it. Most of the decisions go unnoticed because the next play or series comes quickly.
It was no different for New Trier head coach Dan Starkey Friday night, when the Trevians dropped a 21-6 decision to Warren.
Toward the end of the second quarter, and with New Trier trailing 14-3, Starkey made the decision to decline a holding penalty after Warren drove all the way to the Trevians’ 7-yard line. The result of declining the penalty left Warren facing a 4th-and-5 situation, so the Blue Devils attempted a 25-yard field goal, but it sailed wide left and gave New Trier possession before halftime.
If Starkey had decided to accept the penalty, it would have pushed Warren (1-1) back an additional 16 yards and out of field goal range, but it also would given them an extra down to gain back the yardage and try to find the end zone.
“We felt good about putting them in a fourth-down situation, and getting a stop,” Starkey explained. “You know hindsight is always 20/20, but that is what we were thinking, that we were going to get them in a fourth-down situation and get a stop. The decision to decline the penalty — that was a tough decision, it really was. But that is what I was hoping, that they would either try a field goal and we could get a block and maybe a scoop-and-score.”
Even though New Trier (0-2) did not block the kick, stalling the drive and getting the ball back did seem to energize the Trevians. They responded by piecing together a 16-play drive that ended with a 23-yard Grant Amick field goal that trimmed the deficit to just one score at 14-6.
“Absolutely, our kids come off the field — they are excited — certainly, it is a lift defensively,” Starkey said. “That was a big lift for us to get the ball back for our offense, and we still had plenty of time at that point.”
Starkey’s decision to leave his defense on the field with its back against the goal line also showed a lot of confidence in the unit, in that it can get the job done under pressure. If Warren would have punched it in, the Trevians more than likely would have trailed by 18 points.
“(Starkey) can definitely rely on us,” said senior linebacker Michael Henderson. “We almost had a shutout in the second half, and then in the last minute we had another missed tackle and they ended up scoring another touchdown. I know he has a lot of confidence in us — he has told us time and time again. We just have to make plays and make tackles.”
Another result of Starkey deciding to force the field-goal try was that it put some pressure on his own kicker, Amick, to take advantage of the situation after watching the other team’s kicker miss.
“Absolutely, I know I have to capitalize and get it done for our team,” said Amick, who also booted a 35-yard field goal at the start of the second quarter to account for New Trier’s only points.