Urbana junior Jimmy Roche and senior Brent Hawkins have some advice for opposing punters: It's not a good idea to put the ball in play.
"I'm also a punter, and if I was facing us, I'd probably kick it out of bounds," Roche said. "Because if you kick it to one of us, either way you're going to be in trouble."
Less than two minutes in, Roche returned Tuscarora's first punt of the game 55 yards for a touchdown, and Hawkins returned one for a 73-yard score midway through the second quarter en route to a 39-7 victory in a Monocacy Valley Athletic League Chesapeake Division game last night in Ijamsville.
"Returning punts is something we work on every day because we consider it part of our offense," Urbana Coach Joe Polce said. "We know when either of them gets the ball and we give them some blocks, they can make something big happen."
This season, Roche has returned two punts and a kickoff for touchdowns, with Hawkins returning three punts for scores. Last night's returns were integral in keeping the Hawks (4-1 overall, 1-1 league) in the hunt for a 3A West Region playoff berth. Tuscarora (4-1, 1-1) lost its first game of the year.
"We knew if we lost this game, our season might be in jeopardy," Urbana junior running back Sean Alder said. "We needed to prove we are a good team."
That's what the Hawks did by dominating all facets -- offense, defense and special teams -- in front of a capacity crowd of more than 4,000. Alder rushed for a game-high 202 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, senior quarterback Mike Murray threw for 106 yards and two touchdowns, and Urbana's defense kept Tuscarora out of the end zone. The Titans' only score was an 88-yard kickoff return by junior John Robinson after the Hawks had built a 33-0 lead.
"We're better than we were last year, but we're not there yet," Tuscarora Coach Shawn Carey said. "I told our team this game could make our season."
After Roche's punt return opened the scoring, Murray extended the lead to 14-0 with a 15-yard touchdown pass to junior Mike Hall with 8 minutes 52 seconds left in the first half. After forcing Tuscarora to punt, Hawkins pushed the lead to 21-0 at intermission. After a scoreless third quarter, Murray threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to junior Mike Jarboe, and Alder added touchdown runs of 48 and 16 yards in the final 8:16 to cap the scoring.
"After losing last week to Westminster, we weren't worried. We just wanted to come out here and play hard," Polce said. "Now, we have tons of confidence."