The Warner Robins-Coffee game Friday was a classic, with the score tied at 49 and the game coming down to a field goal attempt.
Eli Mashburn followed his routine perfectly before that kick, just like he did before he kicked the game-winner against Peach County a few weeks before.
First, he attempts to clear his mind and get ready for what’s coming. Then, he goes to the net and warms up a bit. He admits by this time his adrenaline is starting to go crazy. But before he goes on the field, he reminds himself that God has his back no matter if he makes or misses the field goal.
After that, he waits for the coaches to scream the word he waits for, which is “shootas,” and that word puts Mashburn on the field.
Mashburn expected Coffee head coach Robby Pruitt to ice him before his 36-yard field goal attempt. But Mashburn did not expect three straight timeouts.
“By that time, I was almost mad that he would call all of his timeouts, and I knew I was going to make that kick,” said Mashburn, who has made 5-of-7 field goals this year. “My snapper, Sam Bish, came up to me, and we said a little prayer, and I was ready to kick. I was glad when it was finally over and I had helped my team win a game.”
The area is loaded with strong kickers, and Warner Robins head coach Mike Chastain knows what an advantage it is to have a quality kicker.
“When we get inside the 35-yard line, I start to believe that we will get some points,” Chastain said. “Eli is a great kid who is always prepared, and we are lucky to have him. He has a great leg and a great work ethic, and he is a great weapon to have.”
Northside also has a long-range weapon at place-kicker with Cory Munson, a junior who is averaging more than 40 yards a punt and has made 10-of-13 field goals with a long of 51. Through six games and a 5-1 start, the Eagles have scored 146 points, and 43 of those have come from the foot of Munson.
“It really can change the mindset of a coach to have someone like Cory,” said Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler, who said he trusts Munson to try a field goal almost inside of 60 yards. “Everyone likes to get the touchdown, but a field goal can make a game a two-score game, which is very important to our style of play. But Cory is also very valuable to us as a punter and a kickoff guy.
“He has a lot of potential, and he is only a junior so he will only get better.”
Peach County’s Mitchell Fineran is one of the top kickers around, and he has made four field goals with a long of 45 this season. Fineran has made 24 of his 25 extra-point tries and has 27 touchbacks on 35 kickoffs.
Mary Persons actually has one place-kicker, Alexander Rivera, who handles field goals and another, Dawson Daniel, who handles extra points. So far, it has worked out perfectly as Rivera has excelled as a field goal kicker, hitting a 54-yarder against Forest Park, while Daniel has not missed an extra point this season.
“We have had a great relationship with our soccer program, and they have given us some great kickers over the years, and these two guys are definitely good ones,” Mary Persons head coach Brian Nelson said. “They are both quality kids, and they actually hold for each other when the other one is kicking. I mean these are self-taught kids, and they come to practice and get their work in with their snapper, Walter Ellison, and then they kind of watch the rest of practice.
“They are both great soccer players and very athletic, and we are lucky to have them.”