KENNEWICK -- You don't always know where inspiration will come from.It's not always as demonstrative as a lightning bolt or a light from above, but you often know it when you see it.
In the case of the Kamiakin football team, inspiration came in the form of a freight train called Dom Davis.
It was Week 2, and the Braves were rolling to a relatively painless 34-6 win at Moses Lake. But midway through the game, Davis laid a thunderous hit down on a Kamiakin punt return that electrified the Braves fans and sideline.
"The guy was running straight at me at full speed, and 'Bam!,' " said Davis, who earned another 'hatchet' -- a sticker designed to reward players based on performance -- for his helmet.
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The return itself was a modest one, but Davis' crushing hit left a lasting impression when watched over and over again during a post-game film session.
"We must have watched it on film for 10 minutes," said Kamiakin head coach Scott Biglin. "Timmy (return man Tim White) took one all the way back to the right side, and Dom came out of nowhere and absolutely earholed one of the Moses Lake guys. Our crowd erupted and our sideline erupted.
"From that point on, players started taking pride in laying guys out."
The overall effect has been a highly-effective return unit that can put six points on the board in the blink of an eye. In the last six games, the Braves' punt return team has brought five kicks back for touchdowns -- all by White.
Kamiakin's offense and defense may be finely-tuned machines, but the special teams have been the terminator.
"What we're seeing now in the playoffs is we're forcing other teams to change who they are," said special teams coach Chad Potter. "Look at Kelso (a 50-6 win) and Mt. Spokane (a 44-19 win). They weren't even punting to us. They'd kick it out of bounds. The kickoffs were pooches. They'd rather kick it on the ground and give it to us on the 35 then give (special teams) an opportunity."
But Potter said the important thing to remember about effective special teams isn't about making one player great. It's about putting all 11 players on the same page with a purpose.
"The thing about punt return is attitude, and it started with Tim. There's no doubt he's a playmaker with a God-given ability to turn a bad situation into a good one," said Potter, who also teaches history at Kamiakin. "What happened was people like Jon Allen and Joe Hunt have taken that one step further. They might not be the ball carrier, but they're determined to be the guy that springs somebody."
On many teams, special teams are a way to give the starters a bit of a rest and keeping them out of harm's way of the high-speed, open-field collisions that are typical on punt and kickoff units.
But Biglin said that's where his best players can really shine. In fact, his punt return unit is comprised of his entire starting defense, which was the CBBN 3A's best this year, allowing just 3.77 yards a play.
"Watching punt return is so much fun. Everybody stops and watches because you don't know what's going to happen," Biglin said. "Joe Hunt doesn't get in the paper for laying a guy out, but there could be a highlight reel of Joe Hunt absolutely leaving his feet and decleating a guy."
The chance to see their hard work on film has made Kamiakin's film sessions one of the team's favorite parts of the day.
"It's lots of fun. On every return, there's at least one big hit," Hunt said. "Coach Potter said that Kamiakin has never really been known for that before this year. This year people are scared of us because we hit them hard."
Even though White gets most of the spotlight for his electrifying returns, he understands his own role is but a part of a much bigger picture.
"I've got to catch the ball first. I can't really do much until I do that," said White. "It's weird, because (a hole) is not there at first, but then you see new stuff open up, and you have to take it. It's kind of a mind game.
"I appreciate our blockers a lot. Without them I wouldn't be anything."