Peach County does not have a shortage of kickers



FORT VALLEY, Ga. — Chad Campbell didn’t grow up playing soccer, and he’s not a soccer dad.

But Peach County’s head football coach does stroll over in the spring and check out the Trojans’ boys soccer matches.

His attendance is two-fold: support another team at Peach County, and maybe find a kicker for his football team.

The process started almost a decade ago, under former head coach Rance Gillespie.

“I came in part-time, focus on kicking,” said Terry Parker, Peach County’s soccer coach who works solely with the Trojans’ kickers. “I want to express my appreciation for them letting me come out here and work the way I do. It’s an honor to be a part of this program.”

It’s more than paid off for Peach County, which started really becoming proficient in kicking in the late 1990s with Clay Bryan, who made 113 of 123 PATs in four years.

He was followed by A.J. Bryant, Brett Mathis, Juan Rodriguez, Rustin Evatt, Shaun Kelly and Luis Lopez through last season.

Peach County kickers have hit about 90 percent of their PATs and 70 percent of their field goal tries during that span.

The Trojans have five kickers on the roster for Saturday’s GHSA Class AAA state title game against Burke County: Alfredo and Miguel Cervantes, Ivan Rodriguez, Jake Singletary and Jan Glosemeyer.

Last season, Alfredo Cervantes got a little action, but played behind Luis Lopez and Shaun Kelly.

“Lopez was good inside the 35,” Campbell said. “Shaun had a powerful leg. I think we tried about a 60-yarder last year.”

Alfredo Cervantes emerged as the No. 1 kicker this year and is 9 of 12 on field goals and 21 of 25 in PATs.

He also backs up wideout Demarcus Robinson at punter. The juniors will probably split a few more next season.

The position has become a notable one for the Trojans.

Kelly, Juan Rodriguez and Clay Bryan have earned all-state honors at kicker.

Juan Rodriguez and Parker teamed to convince Alfredo to try out for football. Rodriguez, who was 12 of 15 on field goals and missed only six PATs in 2005-06, was a friend of the Cervantes’.

“He asked me if I ever thought about kicking,” said Alfredo, who came out as a freshman and watched behind upperclassmen for two seasons. “One day, after they were gone, I’d have my day.”

He can only hope for a chance to do like former teammate Rustin Evatt, whose field goal provided the winning points in Peach County’s 13-12 win over Gainesville in the 2009 state title game.

“Luke (Crowell) was a big hero there at the end, knocked down the last pass,” Parker said. “We scored 13 points, and the kicker scored seven.”

Peach County has been steady at punter as well, with Bryant and Evatt, among others, over the years.

Campbell knows the Trojans are the rare program with a dedicated kicking coach, albeit even a volunteer one.

“Probably more of the North Georgia schools, private schools,” he said. “Schools where soccer is bigger. But not many have one.”

Campbell doesn’t waste time pondering the mental state of kickers. If he’s not happy, somebody else will get the call.

Sometimes, Campbell has a feeling.

Last Friday, Alfredo Cervantes landed in Campbell’s doghouse by missing a PAT. But there the Trojans were, leading 6-0 in the first half. And Campbell sent Cervantes out for a 47-yard field goal, which he drilled.

“After I kicked it, it had a little pop to it,” Cervantes said. “Before I looked up, I knew it was good.”

Campbell still can’t figure out why he didn’t punt.

“I don’t know, I had an epiphany,” said Campbell, who estimated the kick had about seven or so yards to spare. “But it could have cleared 50, 52 (yards).”

It was another sign of confidence in a unit that has become a staple at Peach County.

“We’ve got guys that just kick, that’s all they do,” Campbell said. “We’re very fortunate to have what we have with our kickers. The kickers have really done a good job over the years.”