Originally created 09/25/98

Good kickers a real luxury



Chris Adams may never get his Richmond Academy football jersey soiled, he may never make a tackle or reach the end zone. This skinny, floppy haired babyface of a football player may see the field, oh, five times on Friday nights, but more so than any other position, he helps his coach sleep well at nights.

At the high school level, he is the greatest luxury a team can have, a competent kicker, like a marching band filling out its sousaphone line.

"If the game is tied and came down to a last-second field goal or an extra point, I'm confident in the kids that we have," ARC coach Jim Turner said. "I'll tell you, if we ever get beat 7-6, that would make me sick."

The extra point is the point taken for granted as we progress up the football food chain. Yet squeezing a kick through the uprights may be Mr. Deciding Factor when it comes to area high school games.

Take some recent events: Hephzibah snaps a 12-game losing streak by beating another winless team in Laney when the Rebels' Jerry Johnson converts an extra point and the Wildcats miss their two-point conversion.

Last week, Williston-Elko penetrates the 20-yard line thrice in its backyard brawl with Blackville-Hilda, but because the Blue Devils don't have a kicker, they come away from all three drives scoreless and lose in overtime.

"When you get a team that's evenly matched, it will always come down to the kicking game," said North Augusta coach Joe Long, who has had Mike Mahoney belt a 46-yarder against Butler this season.

"Schools that can trot a capable kicker out have a tremendous advantage over schools that can't because that's one more point you can score that your opponent can't."

ARC's Adams takes it a step further.

"We're more of a weapon because some schools don't have kickers," said Adams, who claims his range reaches 48 yards. "Because we're here, we don't have to score touchdowns on every drive to score. If we get stopped at the 25, Coach can call on us to put points up. So we have a chance to score on more drives than most teams do."

Kickers are a given at the NFL level. All 30 teams have one, and most expect their golden toes to make the pressure points from 45 yards or farther. If not, we see the equivalent of the Washington Redskins' three kickers in three weeks.

It's rare to see the Division I-A college reward the person responsible for the majority of its points a full ride straight out of high school. As scholarship reduction creates across-the-board parity, college coaches usually ask their kickers to walk-on and earn a spot.

One wonders what Florida would give to trade Cooper Collins to Tennessee for Jeff Hall?

The high school kicker is much more of an enigma. Smaller schools, like Williston-Elko, have enough trouble filling out a lineup, so worrying about finding a kicker takes a back seat. And even with a kicker, most coaches in the area are not kicking experts and wouldn't know how to nurture one.

"I coached kicking and extra points for seven years at Silver Bluff and Thomson," Turner said. "I didn't know what I was doing. All I would say is, `Drive through the ball.' That sounded like the best thing."

Schools with strong soccer programs literally give the football teams a leg up because of the ability to draw from a new pool of talent.

Adams, his backup at ARC, Josh McRae, Greenbrier's Adam Wise and North Augusta's Mahoney are soccer players first discovering their niche as self-taught field-goal kickers. Back in 1989, North Augusta's Chris MacInnis turned a fertile soccer career into a full football scholarship to the Air Force after he boomed a 60-yard field goal during a game.

"You kick one ball, you've kick 'em all," said Adams, who plays club soccer year round. "But once we start missing, then we become more important."

Their importance comes every time they step onto the field.