Kicking and screaming
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” In Glenwood Springs’ football opener at Montrose, junior Clay Hawkins disappeared to the sideline after kicking an extra point.
The junior place-kicker, playing in his first football game, had forgotten he still needed to boot a kickoff.
It took senior Lachland Collihole, an Australian who’s schooling in Colorado as part of an exchange student program, a couple months to get this American football thing down. The Demon punter had only ever played Australian Rules football back home.
But both had kicking backgrounds ” Hawkins played soccer from childhood and Collihole with his Aussie Rules experience ” and both are finding their niche with a 2008 Glenwood football program that’ll play for a Class 3A state title on Saturday.
Hawkins has nailed 19 of 19 extra-point kicks and a pair of field goals in the playoffs and is a touchback machine on kickoffs. In the state semifinal against Mountain View, he kicked the ball deep into the end zone regularly, forcing touchbacks on seven of eight kickoffs.
The touchback factor is something Glenwood assistant coach Joe Luetke, who’s in charge of kickoffs, has come to enjoy. It keeps special-teams players from wearing down and completely kills the opponent’s return game.
“It’s a blessing in disguise when it goes out (of the end zone) and they have to start at the 20 every time,” he said. “It would frustrate us, since we have such a great returner in Kevin (Screen) if someone banged it in the end zone all the time.”
Collihole hasn’t seen the field quite as much with a prolific Glenwood Springs offense not needing to call his number often. He’s been effective in his limited leg swings, though, averaging just under 30 yards with his four playoff punts.
Glenwood coaches have witnessed this kicking duo evolve into quite the trusty tandem.
“They take their jobs seriously,” said assistant coach Dennis Brunk, who oversees punt coverage. “Even though that’s their only job, they go the extra mile and work harder to make sure they’re competitive on Friday night or Saturday. … I’ll tell you something unique they do. Guess who comes out here on a Friday when we’re not here? Lachy and Clay. Talk about dedication.”
Collihole, who took over punting duties from Connor Riley late in the season, does practice some with the defensive players, but both he and Hawkins focus primarily on kicking the ball.
Riley, now hurt and out for the playoffs, actually recommended Collihole for the job.
“He comes up and says, ‘Coach, you’ve got to look at Lachy,'” Brunk said. “That’s a credit to Connor. Lachy’s stepped up and has done a great job.”
Having kickers who focus exclusively on kicking is a luxury few high school teams know, particularly at the Class 3A level.
“It’s a huge advantage,” Brunk stressed. “I was at Greeley Central two years ago and we had our place-kicker playing defense and our punter playing offense ” tight end. The main reason it’s an advantage is that those guys can just focus on their jobs.”
And they’ve had some catch-up to play. Both are admittedly a little green when it comes to this football thing.
“I still don’t know what they’re talking about when they’re yelling all these plays,” Hawkins joked. “The kicking part is pretty self-explanatory.”
When Collihole arrived on scene, his familiarity with the rules was vague.
“I didn’t know any of the positions, anything,” he said. “I knew who the quarterback was. It took me a couple weeks, actually a couple months, of watching it. Now I love watching it. It’s fun.”
Both were coaxed into joining the teams by friends, Collihole by his track teammates and Hawkins by some football players he knew.
Now, they wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
“I like it a lot because everyone is real into it and nice to each other,” Hawkins said. “Everyone seems to get along. Even though there’s a lot of joking around, there aren’t any jerks, especially since we’ve gotten this far. We kind of have to get along, if we want to do well.”
And well the Demons are doing.
A win over Fort Morgan in the title game could sweeten the kicking duo’s already amazing flirtation with football.
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