It's cliche to talk about how an inch can change the outcome of any given football game.
That one darn inch between winning and losing, between glory and disappointment, between playing next week or getting ready for basketball.
Coaches preach fighting for that last inch, and the Sterling Golden Warriors found out why last Friday, as they came up inches short of a late touchdown during a 27-24 loss to Ottawa at Roscoe Eades Stadium.
But the inches aren't alway so dramatic, so clear. That's where Ryan Vasquez comes into the picture for the Golden Warriors (6-3).
See, Vasquez, a 2001 Sterling graduate, studies the inches that sometimes get overlooked by other teams. As coach for the special teams, it's his job to find the weakness that might break a kick return or block a punt.
"There isn't anyone who works harder than Coach V," head coach Jon Schlemmer said. "He's in there breaking down tape, doing all the little things, and it's paid off for us in several big spots for us this season.
"I think because of him, the kids want to be on special teams. If they aren't on one, they are disappointed."
Vasquez had the same role for 7 years under former coach Greg King and has kept right on going in Schlemmer's first year.
Both Schlemmer and Vasquez feel special teams will play a big role in Saturday's Class 5A playoff game against Woodstock North.
"Woodstock North has very good special teams," Vasquez said. "I look things over just like they do for offense and defense. We have our time and watch film and go over our coverages.
"We've been really close to breaking a return for a touchdown the last few weeks. We've just been an inch off here or there. One block here or there, and we would have gone. I can feel it coming. It'd be great for it to come this week."
One of the guys who has contributed to those almost-big returns is junior Draque Penaflor-Heier. He plays on both kickoff return and punt return, and is a burner on the kickoff team.
"There's usually one guy that gets in the way," Penaflor-Heier said. "It's usually me with the ball, and I know we're getting close. Hopefully it happens this week."
Penaflor-Heier also feels like Vasquez is a big part of why special teams are so sought-after at Sterling.
"I have a lot of respect for him," Penaflor-Heier said. "I've known him for pretty much my entire life, and he's always been such a positive person.
"I think it's Sterling football to want to be on special teams. We're taught that we want to be out there giving 100 percent and trying to make big plays."
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where; Woodstock North High School
Radio: 94.3 FM
Twitter: Follow Brian Weidman (@BrianWeidman) for live updates