The entire coaching staff has a hand in preparing Havelock’s punt return team each week.
"Having Pharoh (Cooper) and A.J. (Coplon) back there as returners, it kind of makes that job easy," Havelock coach Jim Bob Bryant said.
Cooper had a 37-yard punt return for a touchdown and Coplon added a 58-yarder as the Rams beat Currituck 49-0 last week in the first round of the playoffs. For the year, Cooper has two punt returns for scores (37 and 67 yards), while Coplon has four (58, 53, 55 and 35 yards).
Coplon, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, doesn’t use that speed right away when returning a punt. He often hesitates before making his first move up the field.
"I’m just trying to set up my blocks and look for the open side of the field," said Coplon, who has also returned two of his five interceptions for touchdowns this season.
Cooper is averaging 25.7 yards per punt return, while Coplon averages 24.8 yards.
"Guys peel back and look for those big blocks on those punt returns, and with A.J. and Pharoh back there returning, they set up blocks very well," Bryant said.
Bryant said the staff realizes the importance of special teams.
"It creates field position," he said. "We’re able to flip the field around quickly. Our kickoff return team is so good that most teams don’t kick it deep. They onside it or pooch kick it."
Taylor Woods has had just three opportunities to return a kickoff this season, but his opening return against Currituck set the Rams up inside Knight territory to start the game.
"When I get the opportunity, it’s a special feeling," Woods said. "It’s once in a blue moon that they kick it deep to us. Usually they’ll pooch kick it or onside kick."
He said the reason the return game is so good for the Rams is the blocking.
"It’s awesome," he said. "They’re making holes for me to run through. I just see an open seam and run through it.
"I give all the credit to the coaches and how they coach us up."
Another aspect of special teams is place-kicking, and sophomore Dylan Baker was 7-for-7 on extra points against Currituck.
"I’ve been on him about keeping his head down and driving through the ball," Bryant said.
As for the return game, he just hopes teams don’t follow what would be his strategy.
"I wouldn’t kick it to us," he joked.