A Closer Look with Mark Miller  – Week #4

Week three took off of my normal radio Color Analyst duties and put me on as the WHBC TV Play by Play guy. 

We had a close game, Jackson 20 – Boardman 14.  This game gave us a at one of the finest kickers in Stark County and probably the state of Ohio. Niko Paxos from Jackson not only kicks extra points and field goals but kick off and punts.  That is a rarity in today’s specialized game of football.  This season he has hit all his PATs, all his unblocked field goals and has put a majority of kickoffs into the endzone.  Add to his leg strength and accuracy his size of 6’2 185 and he may be kicking for a long time at the next level(s).  Friday vs. Boardman he was 5/5 on PATs, made 34 and 45 yard field goals, punted 3 times for a 44 yd. average and put all 5 of his kickoffs into the endzone.

Kickers are so important to a team.  They can bail you out of trouble with a booming punt, make your team a threat to score with a long-range field goal and, maybe the most important is to make the other team’s offense start at the 20 yd. line every time with a kickoff in the endzone. Niko Paxos does all of this for his Polar Bears.

As valuable as a great kicker is, there are other very important parts to every kick play.  The snapper (the guy that hikes the ball back to the punter – a long snapper, or the PAT/FG holder – the short snapper) is of equal importance because a bad snap will allow a blocked kick or broken play. In both cases the kicker never gets chance to show his talent. My youngest son long snapped in college and the NFL and believe me, it is a skill that takes a lot of practice and refined technique. The other individual important piece is the holder on extra points and field goals. Ask any kicker and he will say a good holder is worth his weight in gold. He not only puts down a good snap with regularity but can save a bad snap and allow the kicker a chance to still make the kick. Of course the blocking of the line up front must be solid to prevent blocked kicks as well.

Add it all together and you have a beautifully executed play that aids the team in big ways. Poor performance by any of the above-stated parts and the team may get embarrassed. That’s why coaches spend a lot of time on special teams – at least the coaches with good play from their kick teams.

As they often say, it takes all 3 aspects of the game (offense, defense and special teams) to have a complete team – a team that will win more than lose. So next Friday when you attend the game of your favorite team, pay “special” attention to the “special teams”.  It may make the difference between and win and a loss.