10/4/2012 11:43:00 PM Special Teams Kickers continue to play key role in high school football
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier Prescott High School senior kicker Zachary Koehler, 17, and senior holder D.J. Schroeder, 18, practice kicking a field goal Thursday afternoon at PHS. The Badgers travel to Phoenix today to take on the Barry Goldwater Bulldogs.
UNDER THE LIGHTS
Prescott (4-2) at Phoenix Barry Goldwater (1-5)
Friday, 7 p.m.
Prescott dropped seven spots in the Arizona Interscholastic Association's (AIA) Division II Seedings, from No. 11 to No. 18, after last Friday's 38-10 loss to D-I No. 22 Sandra Day O'Connor in Phoenix.
If the D-II state tournament started today, the Badgers would be on the outside looking in. The top 16 teams in the overall Seedings earn playoff berths.
Nonetheless, Prescott should bounce back Friday at D-II No. 35 Barry Goldwater, which has lost five straight. The teams have had two common opponents so far this season in Glendale Deer Valley and Cave Creek Cactus Shadows.
Goldwater lost to Deer Valley, 27-0, Sept. 7, and succumbed to Cactus Shadows, 14-10, last Friday. PHS defeated Deer Valley, 56-28, Aug. 31, and Cactus Shadows, 63-49, Sept. 21.
Phoenix Sandra Day O'Connor (2-4) at Bradshaw Mountain (3-4)
Friday, 7 p.m.
Division II No. 27-ranked Bradshaw Mountain will end the 2012 regular season with three of its last four games at Bob Pavlich Field, including Friday night's contest against the D-I No. 22 O'Connor Eagles.
O'Connor represents the toughest opponent in Bradshaw's final trio of contests at home. If the Eagles' dispatching of Prescott last week in Phoenix is any indication, it could be a long night for the Bears.
Chino Valley (1-5) at Flagstaff (4-2)
Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Walkup Skydome
Chino Valley, losers of two in a row, travel to Flagstaff to face the Division III No. 17-rated Eagles at Northern Arizona University's Walkup Skydome.
The Cougars, ranked second-to-last in Division IV at No. 31, are simply trying to finish out the season by showing steady improvement in their last four games.
Ash Fork (1-5) at Mayer (2-4)
Friday, 7 p.m.
Mayer must win its final two contests of the regular season if it has any hopes of sending the program to its ninth straight appearance in the state playoffs.
Currently ranked 18th in the eight-man game's Division VI, the Wildcats will likely need some help to get into the 16-team tournament field even if they beat struggling No. 26 Ash Fork Friday on Senior Night and No. 21 Fredonia (2-4) on the road in the finale next week.
Seventeenth-rated Bowie/San Simon (4-2) and No. 16 Kearny Ray (3-3) presently sit above Mayer in D-VI's overall rankings.
Last week, the Wildcats lost to No. 4 Mesa Prep Academy, 44-28, on Homecoming.
The importance of the kicker can't be understated at any level of football, from the preps to the pros, especially in a tight contest that goes down to the wire.
Whether it's converting an extra point or a field goal, or simply booting a deep kickoff, having an efficient kicker in the fold oftentimes makes the difference between a win and a loss.
In 2012, Prescott and Bagdad high schools' varsity programs are fortunate to possess that player with the quality foot who has the natural gift and work ethic to succeed in one of the most specialized positions on the field.
Badgers' 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior place kicker Zach Koehler and Sultans' 5-6, 132-pound senior PK Damian Jauregui have fine-tuned their kicking to such a degree that it's become an art.
"It definitely takes some talent, but if you just put your mind to it, you can accomplish it," Koehler said of kicking. "It takes a lot of practice."
Koehler, who doubles as a defensive lineman, is responsible for kickoffs, extra points and field goals. Early in the season, he had even been called on to punt.
Koehler started kicking in the seventh grade at Mile High Middle School after his coaches found out he played a lot of soccer.
Last fall, Koehler booted only extra points for PHS. But over the summer he attended two camps to hone his skills. On his best days in practice, Koehler can convert field goals upwards of 45-50 yards.
Prescott, which owns a 4-2 record heading into Friday night's game at Phoenix Barry Goldwater, has benefited from Koehler's proficiency on point after tries (PATs). But not until last Friday did Koehler convert his first varsity field goal, a 33-yarder, in a 38-10 loss to Sandra Day O'Connor.
"It was cool. It pretty much shows that I've prepared for that moment for a long time," Koehler said of his FG. "We were down a lot, and we kind of needed those points. It was a lot of pressure, but I really just focused and tried to do my best. And it paid off."
Through the Division II Badgers' first five games, Koehler connected on 25 extra points, including a single-game program record-tying 9 PATs (9-for-9) in a 63-49 shootout victory over Cave Creek Cactus Shadows Sept. 21 at Bill Shepard Field.
"I was just in a zone," Koehler said. "It kind of just turns into muscle memory. With kicking, you really have to calm down and make the kick."
Koehler is the second-highest scorer on his team behind senior running back Brady Mengarelli, who scored an astounding 20 touchdowns (120 points) in the Badgers' initial handful of contests.
Not to be overlooked, however, is Koehler's importance in dictating the opposition's field position on kickoffs.
Through Prescott's first five games, Koehler booted 28 kickoffs for a total of 1,069 yards with a long of 52 yards. He can drill his kicks deep, medium-range or short, depending on the opponent's personnel.
"Being able to hit the ball in the same spot helps out, and I've been trying to work on that," Koehler said. "It's real tough to get going at almost a full sprint and kick the ball."
Bagdad's Jauregui has been equally impressive. The difference is that Jauregui's already developed into a potent field-goal kicker for a Sultans squad that currently owns a 6-1 record in the eight-man game's Division VI, or the former Class 1A.
In Bagdad's 64-12 victory over Surprise Paradise Honors Sept. 7 at home, Jauregui tied the D-VI (1A) record for the longest field goal made with a 50-yarder.
As a sophomore in 2010, Jauregui set the classification's record for extra points in a game with 12 and the single-season mark for PATs with 58.
"It really is a luxury having a kicker that good in 1A," Bagdad coach Dalton Mills said. "He makes every offense have to drive the field with his touchbacks on kickoffs, and he is a threat to score as soon as we cross midfield."
At Bradshaw Mountain, coach Adam Schiermyer said he's still working to develop his first-year kicker, junior Agustin Espinoza, into a field goal-kicking threat who could consistently hit 25- to 35-yarders.
Espinoza, a soccer player, has been solid at converting extra points this fall, but he needs more time to improve at field goals and forcing touchbacks on kickoffs, the coach added.
This year, Espinoza completed a one-day clinic with a former Arizona State University kicker to watch the latter's form so he could make corrections to his leg position and hip drive on kicks.
Among other things, Espinoza is boosting his lower-body strength in the weight room so he can eventually kick more balls into the end zone on kickoffs and connect on field goals.
"If you have a field goal kicker that can kick a ball from 30 yards away, and you feel like you can make it from right-hash middle or the left hash, you're cutting the field by 30 yards," Schiermyer said. "Instead of 100 yards to get points, you only have to go 70 yards to get points."
Schiermyer added that there's a reason the kicking game is dubbed special teams - because "it can change games."
"It's possible to win games without your offense ever doing anything," he said.
Posted: Friday, October 05, 2012
Article comment by:
A picture tells the reader so much, doesn't it?
Posted: Friday, October 05, 2012
Article comment by:
another 1-5 team for Prescott! BORING...............................................
On Friday, George Mitchell, who investigated the Penn State abuse case, said the university has gotten "off to a very good start" in responding to NCAA sanctions. What are your thoughts on Penn State's recovery process?
13% The university will never recover.
65% It may take years, but the football program will bounce back.
22% I honestly don't pay attention to Penn State anymore.