Troy Davila has had a big hand in the success of the Lorain County Nightmares this season.
Well, technically, he’s had a big foot in the team’s success.
A punter, Davila leads the Premier Amateur Football League with a 48.6 yards per kick average. Last week, in a 35-21 win over the Cleveland Saints in the first round of the PAFL Playoffs, it was a Davila punt that changed momentum and set Lorain County on the path to victory.
With a trip to the semifinals on the line tonight when the Nightmares play the Stealth at 5:30 in Pittsburgh, there’s a good chance Davila’s skills will be needed again.
“I want to go on record in saying I am flabbergasted Troy Davila is not punting in the all-star game,” Nightmares coach Terry Murray said. “He’s the best punter in the league and I’m not sure he shouldn’t be punting at a different level. His foot is critical to our team’s success. Troy loves to play tight end and catch the ball, but his contribution to this team as a punter is immeasurable. We’d be in trouble without him.”
That was evident last week. With the scored tied at 14 in the second quarter, the Nightmares went three-and-out deep in their own territory.
The Saints were set to get the ball back in great field position with plenty of time left in the half. They were also going to receive the second-half kickoff, so a score before halftime would put them in the driver’s seat.
But from his own 25-yard line, Davila boomed a 66-yard punt over the head of the Saints’ return man. The ball took a Lorain County bounce and came to rest at the Saints’ 9-yard line with 1:08 left. Three plays later, Nick Rogerson intercepted a Saints pass to end the half.
“That’s an amazing feeling, when you can get a kick off like that and turn over field position,” Davila said. “When you know your offense is struggling, it can really help. (Defensive end) Sonny (Hazelwood) told me that, as a defensive player, he loves my foot. Special teams is so important and I know every time I punt there’s a lot at stake.”
This is a lesson Davila and the Nightmares learned last season in the championship game loss to the Ohio Golden Knights. In that game, Davila had a punt blocked that led to a Knights’ touchdown in a three-point Nightmares loss.
“Every time I punt, last year’s championship game is on my mind,” Davila said. “The Knights blocked that punt and scored off it … and that bothers me to this day. Coach always talks about how special teams is such a big part of the game and I’ve worked really hard to do my part.”
A 2005 Midview graduate, Davila played college baseball at Cuyahoga Community College. He punted in high school and joined the Nightmares to play tight end. But even at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, the competition at that position was intense.
“I love it,” he said of catching passes. “When I joined the team I saw we had 12 to 15 receivers and they were all faster than me. I didn’t think I was going to get to play that much, but Coach Murray told me to concentrate on my punting. At first I was kind of disappointed because I felt like I wanted to play football, not just kick.”
Davila has caught seven passes for 78 yards and a touchdown this season, but his primary focus has been making up for last season’s title game.
“Losing that game really got to me,” Davila said. “Because of what happened I worked really hard on becoming a better punter.”
The Nightmares will be playing a Pittsburgh Stealth team it doesn’t know much about.
“We know they won six and lost two games this season,” Murray said. “Other than that we don’t know much more than we’ve been told. In a situation like this we have to just concentrate on doing what we do best and make any adjustments we have to make at halftime. We’ve rushed for over 200 yards in four straight games, so we’re going to try to move the ball on the ground.
“That might surprise some people because we’ve always run a spread offense and thrown the ball. A few games ago we changed our offensive line up and have been pounding the ball. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.