By halftime last week, Key West High placekicker Axel Correa had tied a single-game record with seven touchbacks. The senior would set the record in the second half of the Conchs’ 55-0 victory, which also left him just one away from putting his name atop the season-long record books.
“I had an idea of what the record was but I had it mistaken for the season record,” Correa said about his record-setting night.
During the intermission, special team coach Judd Wise notified Correa where he stood in reference to the school mark.
“He wanted me to stop thinking about it, but that’s all I had on my mind the rest of the way,” said Correa as at that point he realized he needed just one more touchback after going 7-for-7 in the first half.
He would finish the night going 8-for-9 — missing the end zone on a kick on his final attempt of the game after the Conchs were pushed back five yards for a penalty — but it still sets him up to also set the school mark for touchbacks in the season, which he is currently tied with Olexandr Yanovich at 12, set in 2004.
“I’m still so proud of what I got to achieve,” said Correa, who will be back at the Key West High Back Yard for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday, Sept. 24, against Miami International. “Hopefully this Friday I can break the season long, but I understand my playing time is based on how well my teammates are doing.”
The kicker noted that watching his Key West teammates practice this week, coming off the district victory, he is convinced he will have several more opportunities to break not just the touchback season record but also the extra point record, as he is yet to miss a PAT in his career.
“I’m really proud of the record I was able to achieve with the team’s help,” said Correa. “I’m excited they are about to give me the opportunities and if I can give the guys one play off, I’m happy to do that for the team.”
If he does set the new school mark on Friday, it will come against a Miami International playing its inaugural season, and, truthfully, with little information the Key West coaching staff to scout. Conchs coach Johnny Hughes pointed out that he expects 300-plus pounders all across the offensive front as well as athletic players in skill positions.
“When Miami Christian canceled, we had to find somebody, so it’s just one of those things because we want as many wins as possible to be playoff eligible,” said Hughes, noting that the only game film Key West has on International is from field level and he admitted to not being able to make out much of a game plan from the video. “Maybe it’s a new school not having the resources, so it’s tough. We tried to go on and find some other film from some other games, but there’s nothing.”
That just means the focus for the Conchs this week is on themselves, which was the mantra entering last week’s 55-0 shackling of St. Brendan.
“Usually we say that every week because whatever we see on film never translates in the game, especially with our triple-option offense,” said Hughes. “Usually we get to see whatever wrinkles they put in to stop the running game and pick a position from who did what the previous game.”
The Hurricanes will have a tough choice to make if that be the case as both Preston Herce and Jeremiah Osborne went for more than 100 rushing yards in the Conchs’ victory.
“They are going to have to pick their poison there, so we are always going to worry about ourselves first on offense,” said Hughes.
Defensively, Key West does more game planning and Hughes said International likes to stretch the field.
“We have to make sure we contain in our pass-rushing lanes and wrap up and make the plays when we have to,” said Hughes. “If the defense plays like we did last week, we will be in good shape. They didn’t go cowboy on us and go rogue, which means everybody did their jobs, filled the gaps, and made plays.”
The biggest difference in the first win of the season from Hughes’ perspective was the fact for the first time all season the Conchs won the turnover battle, something the coach stressed they must do again if they hope to climb back to .500.
“I expect us to be able to move the ball and control the chains,” said Hughes. “Big plays will be limited, but if we can catch them cheating, we can pop one off.”
The coach also expressed he feels the Conchs’ confidence level is as high as it has been all year. “They are looking at those first two games a little sideways and can say ‘That wasn’t us,’ because we know happens when we do things right,” said Hughes. “It was not a major overhaul, it was easy to fix, and we’ve teased them saying, ‘if it didn’t work right the first time, trying to do what we asked you to do.’”
Hughes also believes taking on a team the likes of International is a good “next step” with a return to district play looming in the coming weeks.
“We want to be clicking on all cylinders when that game comes,” said Hughes. “That all starts this week, so hopefully that’s all out of our system and the football gods are smiling on us.”