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Kickers making a difference
Liberty County kicker Joaquin Lemapu practices his craft. - photo by John Wood

This is part 2 of an original series by Bradwell Institute assistant coach John Wood that explores the different roles, positions and areas that go into a Friday night high-school football game. It examines changes in the coaching profession, increasing pressure on the trainers, how booster clubs assist teams and, finally, what goes into kickers’ preparation.

No other sport showcases as much raw emotion as football. Fans see sack celebrations by linebackers, touchdown dances by running backs and victory leaps by quarterbacks. However, kickers don’t really show any emotion.
“We have a big play, and everyone is celebrating and going crazy on the sidelines, I just try to stay calm and keep my mind focused on what may be coming,” Bradwell Institute junior kicker Robert Miller said.
Kicking is in Miller’s blood. His older brother, David, was a staple for the Tigers special teams, earning all-region honors. David now kicks for the Georgia State University Panthers in Atlanta.
“We don’t have necessarily a true, designated kicking coach,” Robert Miller said. “My dad has worked with me and my brother, but kicking is mainly about a lot of individual preparation.”
Miller not only kicks extra points and field goals for Bradwell, he also kicks off and punts for the Tigers.
Liberty County Panthers kicker Joaquin Lemapu and First Presbyterian Christian Academy kicker Phillip Swindell mirror Miller’s thoughts on the kicking game.
As teams get ready to play an opponent, they put together a plan for that week’s special teams. If a team has a particularly fast returner, kickers must make a concerted effort to keep the ball away from that player, or otherwise pay the consequences, such as a long return or a touchdown.
All three kickers spend most of their time on the sidelines by the kicking net, staying warm and in the zone. They are much like a closer in baseball who may only pitch to three batters, but those three batters may be the difference between a win or a loss. People may forget if a linebacker misses a tackle or receiver drops a pass, but it’s a different world when a kicker misses field-goal or extra-point attempts.
“Once I am warmed up and have to go in and kick an extra point, I just keep my head down drive through the kick and do not even worry about what is front of me.” Lemapu said.
On every attempt, a kicker has a chance to either be the hero or the goat, according to Miller.
“We as kickers get the offense or defense field for a few seconds. It’s important for us to be ready to go,” Swindell said. “We also have a chance to be able to put up points for our team and that chance is really important because it can be the difference in the game.”

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