Conventional football wisdom says that the offensive team should boot the ball on fourth down to avoid a failure to convert, to ensure crummy field position for the opposition, and to perhaps nab the ball on a muffed return.
But in high school football, coaches can face a conundrum: keep driving forward or trust the punting to a linebacker with no real training.
Coaches who aren’t John Kravic, that is.
At Red Hook’s 48-36 home opener victory against Saugerties Sept. 7, Kravic’s Raiders went for it on fourth down in big spots, and converted or scored almost every time. In the first quarter, quarterback Nick Carlson hit receiver Connor Boryk over the middle for a long touchdown on 4th and 5, and on 4th and 3 in the second quarter, Carlson ambled into the endzone for a touchdown. Red also converted a few first downs with their go-for-it philosophy.
“I’m fairly direct,” Kravic told The Observer. “I mean, I don’t want to give it away — our secrets — but if we’re inside our 40, we’re going for it.”
It was a pretty standard romp for Red. The team has had some luck in recent years when it comes to home openers, throwing down on Pine Plains squads in 2011 and 2012 and hosting a weak Saugerties squad this year.
At the outset, however, it seemed as though Saugerties had a handle on things. Red Hook won the toss and chose to defer, and the Sawyers almost capitalized, taking the ball to the Red Hook 10-yard line on the return — but a chipping penalty against them got the ball returned to the 45. Pass-happy Saugerties connected on a few throws early and was having little trouble moving the chains in the first, but it wasn’t enough. After Carlson’s connection to Boryk and his own trip into the endzone in the beginning of the second quarter, the Raiders had the momentum.
Red Hook’s next touchdown came from running back John Alessi, who ran 50 yards on a draw, putting the Raiders up 21-0. The Sawyers did come out of the half with some points on the board, courtesy of quarterback Randall Lewellyn, who scored a short running touchdown with :01 left in the second quarter.
The Raiders fumbled at 10:44 in the third quarter, giving Saugerties good field position, but immediately made up for it two minutes later when they forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive lineman Ross Insogna. Another running touchdown followed for Nick Carlson at 5:10 and, following the point after, the Raiders were up 35-7.
Saugerties put up one more touchdown at :47, but failed to convert the point after. And in the fourth, Red Hook scored on a real anomaly. On a kickoff that stopped rolling at the 1-yard line, the Sawyers’ return man either misjudged whether the ball was in the endzone or forgot the rules of football because he took a few steps back, and let Raiders’ Drew Zarella roll the ball into the endzone. Officials judged that Zarella was down by contact at the 1-yard line, but Dustin Ducey would stroll into the endzone on the next play for Red Hook’s final touchdown.
“I’m obviously happy with the way we scored — the offense did real well,” Kravic said. “A team effort. We had 24 kids and only had to start two on either side of the ball. We’ve really got a lot of athletes, so I’m feeling really good. Obviously we’ve got some work to do — we’ve got a short week and we’re in the league now. That’s what I told them. This was for standings, but the next game is where it really starts.”
Red Hook will visit Mid-Hudson Athletic League opponent Highland on Sept. 12 at 7:30pm.