Special teams have become an especially formidable weapon for the New Albany High School football team, but not necessarily in a way the Eagles would have predicted.
Michael O'Shaughnessy only began punting two years ago as a sophomore at the suggestion of former coach Pat Samanich, and just within the past nine months has become a five-star recruit and the target of several Football Bowl Subdivision schools.
Meanwhile, kicker Grant Rogers continues to compete despite a torn ACL.
The seniors' efforts have been a big boost to New Albany, which is 3-3 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Capital Division entering a Friday, Oct. 5, game at Newark.
"We've been fortunate to be blessed with great kickers here, but rarely have we had two at the same time," coach Matthew Kidwell said. "With Grant able to kick extra points and field goals, that takes the stress off Michael to focus only on punting. ... It's such a weapon to have those two guys."
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Rogers is 4-for-4 on field goals and 15-for-17 on extra points. Shaughnessy, a 6-4, 190-pound converted wide receiver and defensive back, is averaging 34.8 yards per punt in 22 attempts.
Both had their best individual efforts of the season in a 30-18 win at Olentangy on Sept. 21, as Rogers made a 44-yard field goal and O'Shaughnessy nailed a 54-yard punt.
Seven days earlier, Rogers had been told his season was over after he tore his left ACL during practice Sept. 5. He made a field goal and both extra-point attempts two nights later in a 27-24 loss to Licking Heights, but a doctor's visit Sept. 14 put his future in doubt.
"I was kicking a field goal ... and I landed straight-legged on my plant (left) leg. I caught it wrong. I fell to the ground. We didn't know what happened originally," Rogers said. "The doctors told us it was either a kneecap shift or a partial meniscus tear. I got an MRI and when the MRI came back, they said it was an ACL tear.
"I immediately broke down in tears. My first question was, 'Is it completely torn?' (The doctor) said yes. My second question was, 'Am I out for the season?' And she said yes."
During that night's game at Gahanna, team doctor Kevin Klingele told Rogers he could finish out the season as long as he wore a brace. Rogers will undergo surgery after the team's final game, with six to 12 months of recovery to follow.
"This program has done a lot for me and I wanted to be able to repay the favor and try to finish out my senior season," Rogers said. "I have zero pain with it. There's no swelling in my knee either. It was just like a freak accident."
O'Shaughnessy was a soccer player until sixth grade and took up football two years later. He began kicking as a freshman, and after last year reached out to former Ohio State kicker Drew Basil, a New Albany resident, through mutual acquaintances.
A strong performance at a Chris Sailer Kicking camp during the winter turned heads. Princeton was the first school to express interest, and Ohio State, Vanderbilt and Virginia, among others, have followed.
O'Shaughnessy visited OSU for its Sept. 22 game against Tulane. He said that coaches have told him if he chooses the Buckeyes, he likely would be a preferred walk-on before redshirting as a freshman and competing for the starting job thereafter.
"If you asked me a year ago what my current situation would be, it definitely would not be what is happening now," said O'Shaughnessy, who had a career-long 74-yard punt as a junior against Canal Winchester. "I haven't grasped it or understood how good this is for me and how my future is set if I can get a college to take a chance on me and play Division I on scholarship. Every game, I try to do my best. I have progressively gotten better. Flipping the field is something I love to do.
"Most people don't like when the punter comes on the field, but it's my favorite part of the game."
O'Shaughnessy also is handling kickoffs, a duty Rogers might reassume depending on his health.
New Albany will try to rebound from a 30-28 home loss to Canal Winchester to begin league play Sept. 28. The Eagles trailed 27-7 in the third quarter before clawing back, including touchdown passes of 13 and 2 yards from Luke Muter to Michiah Burton in the final 6 minutes, 5 seconds. The 2-yard score came with 1:09 to go, but Muter's would-be, game-tying two-point conversion pass to Burton was broken up.
Newark fell to 1-5 with a 37-7 loss at Big Walnut on Sept. 28. Dustin Williams had the Wildcats' only score on an 18-yard run in the second quarter, and Newark gained 114 of its 137 total yards on the ground.