Richie Wessman won’t divulge whether “Home Run Throwback” is in Ravenwood’s special teams playbook.
But the Raptors’ first-year coach is comforted by the presence of Alan Lowry – author of the play that resulted in the Music City Miracle during the Tennessee Titans’ run to Super Bowl XXXIV – as a member of his staff.
“He’s a fantastic special teams coach; I just have to calm him down,” Wessman said during Ravenwood’s recent open week. “He’s got too many good ideas.”
Idle since leaving the Titans’ staff following the 2012 season, Lowry was lured back onto the field last spring by Wessman – a former offensive quality control coach under Jeff Fisher – and ex-Tennessee linebacker Al Smith, who is currently freshman coach at Ravenwood.
“My pitch was, just come out and watch practice,” Wessman said. “He came out, he had fun watching practice and said ‘I need to do something like this, at least for a little while’.
“He’s gameplanning all six phases (of special teams), personneling it, coaching up all the details. We have special teams meetings every day. He works with a pretty good chunk of the team when you look at all six phases, maybe 50 or 60 kids out of 85 on the varsity.”
Lowry has full run of the Raptor punt coverage, punt return, kickoff coverage, kickoff return, field goal and field goal defense units.
“I’m really having a great time,” said the 65-year-old, who spent 30 years in the NFL as an assistant with the Cowboys, Buccaneers, 49ers and Oilers/Titans after nearly 10 years in the college coaching ranks.
“I like competition,” he said. “That’s one of the things I miss. I love gameplanning and teaching. I can do all those things with the guys I’m working with.”
The resume certainly gets the attention of his current charges – few of whom were even born when “Home Run Throwback” launched the Titans past Buffalo in the 2000 AFC Wild Card Game at then-Adelphia Coliseum, before wins at Indianapolis and Jacksonville earned the franchise’s first Super Bowl berth.
“I’d heard of him,” senior longsnapper Gunner Martin said. “I knew he had a lot of experience in the professionals, so when he came in here, we didn’t have any doubt he knew what he was talking about.
“He brings a lot of insight to the program about things we can do – fakes, things that it doesn’t feel like would have worked last year. He’s changed the game for us. He’s made special teams a factor.”
With a 2-3 mark halfway through the regular season, Ravenwood hasn’t reached too deeply into Lowry’s bag of tricks just yet.
“We had to do some things to get creative with our punting unit,” Wessman said. “We struggled with the snap when (starting punter Jim) Roebuck was out, struggled catching the snap and getting the punt off. So we went to the ‘gate’ punt to get in an alignment where we were much closer to center, where we could catch the snap and get the punt off.
“We did have a big conversion on a fourth-down punt fake at Mt. Juliet to keep a drive alive, and we ended up scoring on that drive (in a 12-7 win). So we definitely utilize his knowledge.”
A fake punt the following week against Centennial didn’t work as well – “If we’d thrown it one inch higher, it probably would have been a big play,” Lowry said – but the team is enthused about that element of the game.
“We’re getting better and better as we go along,” he said. “I think they like doing it when you can have some success like we did with the first one.”
Like Wessman, Smith and defensive coordinator Ryan Fowler, all boasting Titan ties, Lowry is finding that coaching at the high school level means doing more with less time.
“You don’t always get to watch game film from the week before,” he said. “You’ve got very little meeting time, very little practice time. The time restraints are a whole lot different. And then just the things you can do, ability-wise, that (the players) can comprehend and be able to do. I’m having to figure it out on the run, kind of.”
Lowry credits assistant Matt Daniels with aiding his transition.
“He and I work together really well,” Lowry said. “I’ve learned a lot from him about handling guys this age. He’s been a high school coach for many years. I’m learning what makes them tick, how to get the best effort out of them.”
As for the availability of “Home Run Throwback”, Lowry echoed Wessman: “We hope we don’t have to use it.”