Max Tyler keeps it simple and to the point when it comes to the importance of kicking in football.
“You can’t start a game without the kicking game. You can end one without it, but you can’t start a game without it,” Tyler said. “I enjoy kicking. As a team, our coach likes kicking. I really enjoy it and everyone else likes it.”
Kicking is an aspect of the game that continues to grow within the area, and each matchup between teams with and without a kicker is proof of its importance. The emergence of soccer in the area and the increase in the number of camps are two reasons why more teams are able to avoid two-point conversion attempts and try for longer field goals.
Tyler, an Evans senior, is an example of soccer’s influence on the kicking game. A defensive player for the Knights soccer program, Tyler picked up football after excelling at soccer at a young age and has quickly grasped kicking and punting.
The Evans kicker is 22 for 23 on extra points and 1 for 1 on field goals this season. He’s also taken over punting duties this year and is averaging 36.7 yards per punt with a long of 55.
The field goal came at North Augusta in the season opener Aug. 25 and went for 49 yards, a career high.
“When I kicked it, I honestly didn’t think it would go in,” Tyler said. “It felt really bad. I looked up and it bends in, so I was really ecstatic that it happened.”
He’s also impacting kickoffs in a clear way by recording touchbacks on nearly every attempt, including going 8 for 8 against Washington County this past Friday. To further prove his leg strength, he booted a 60-yard field goal this past summer during practice.
“My dad didn’t believe me. He grabbed a yard tape and measured it,” Tyler said.
Evans coach Lemuel Lackey said Tyler stands out as an athletic kid capable of playing multiple positions, not just on special teams. He’s also accepted the double duty of kicking and punting with success this season.
“I’ve heard of a couple guys who have done some phenomenal things,” Lackey said. “We like our guy and what he’s doing and what he means to the football team.”
The area has a growing number of capable kickers, from Jefferson County’s Evans Hodges and Strom Thurmond’s Lawson Reel to Aquinas’ Crimmins Hankinson among others.
Hankinson showed his worth last season when he kicked a 44-yard field goal as time expired to beat Laney.
Hodges continues to destroy Jefferson County’s kicking records, including 49 extra points and five field goals last season. He already has two field goals this year. Reel has been a steady presence for Strom Thurmond for several years and already has a 39-yard field goal in his senior season.
Harlem coach Todd Booker sees the positive effects of a kicking game when facing a team without one.
His kicker, sophomore Jeremy Glidewell, is 21 for 23 on extra points with a 28-yard field goal this year along with being one of the top punters in the area. Booker sees Glidewell’s leg as an advantage when the extra point is almost a lock compared to an opposing team that must attempt a two-point conversion each time.
“Having Jeremy is a real luxury for us,” Booker said. “For us on offense, we feel like when we get to a certain point that we know we can get some points out of it with Jeremy, or at least have a chance to get points. Without a kicker in high school, that really limits what you can do.”
Booker and Lackey agreed that soccer has allowed for more opportunities to bring potential kickers on board. With the sport only growing in popularity, soccer is feeding football programs potential kickers, and the group of area kickers should only increase in numbers and talent as a result.
“A lot of the area soccer teams are really doing well throughout the state, and a lot of our guys are participating, especially at the early stages in soccer programs,” Lackey said. “Football is one of those things that gives them a forum. If they’re marginal soccer, they could potentially be a high-level, needed guy at football. I feel like that’s something they should take advantage of.”
Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.