Defending our Selections: The All-State Specialists…

At KPGFootball, we don’t know that players, in High School today, have the respect for Specialists and Special Teams our football forefathers had. We can tell you Frank Beamer made a fine career, and won a lot of football games, focusing on special teams’ play.

Tennessee had a pretty good football coach one time named Robert Reese Neyland who, being a Brigadier General in the United States Army, was, quite appropriately, referred to as General Neyland. At KPGFootball, we realize many young players reading this have no idea the coach to whom we are making reference but the stadium at the University of Tennessee, a school which used to play a little football, is named for him.

Anyway, how good of a coach was Neyland? Well, Paul Bear Bryant thought he was pretty good. He once said of Neyland, in one of his auto-biographies, that [e]verybody thought Neyland had a jinx on us. It was no jinx. He was a better coach, and he had better football players – and I couldn’t stand it,… 

Neyland had seven maxims of football which he believed were the keys to winning games. Over his time as the Head Football Coach at the University of Tennessee, he won 173 games, losing 31, and tying 12 times, with claim to 4 National Championships and 8 conference titles, so he knew something about winning. Anyway, there were Seven Maxims which were to be the cornerstone for any football team’s construction of winning football. Two of the maxims pertained to special teams.

Maxim #4 was Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game, (Emphasis Added)and Maxim #6 was Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made. Neyland retired in 1951, winning an AP/UPI Consensus National Championship in his last season.

What KPGFootball is telling you, and we believe our selection committee to be also telling you, is these maxims are still relevant in today’s game of football. Really, not much has changed. We selected All-State football players who we believe to be specialists, but, more importantly, we believe are special football players for both the Classes of 2021 & 2022 All-State Football teams. We will begin with the elder statesmen. Congratulations to the following:

Class of 2021 Specialists;

The Schofield Leg Rocket

Ben Schofield, PK, 5-9 and 145 pounds, McCracken County High School

KPGFootball came up with this player’s nickname, The Schofield Leg Rocket. We are pretty darned proud of that. Schofield made the freshman All-State team last year, so he is a returning player. We are pretty proud of that too. The nickname stemmed from two year’s ago when Schofield provided the winning margin for Team Kentucky in the Tennessee-Kentucky Future Stars Classic. Projecting him as a Future Star was about as money of a prediction as this publication has ever made about football or anything else for that matter.

Ben followed up a freshman campaign during which he converted 6 field goals in 7 attempts and converted on all 10 of his PATs with a sophomore season where he was 3 for 3 in field goals, converted 35 of 38 PATs, and finished fourth on the team in scoring with 44 points tallied on the year. The Schofield Leg Rocket has matured into exactly the type of place-kicker we predicted when he was in middle school. He’s practically money in the bank.

Photo Credit: Mike Mathison, The News Enterprise

Evan Jones, PK, 6-2, 190 pounds, Central Hardin…

We haven’t come up with a snazzy nickname for this player yet, but give us a chance, we have only just learned of him. What we can tell you is how having a kicker like Evan Jones impacts a high school football team’s morale and fortunes.

If you will look at the Mathison photograph above, that is the sideline reaction to Evan’s nailing a 49 yard field goal against Meade County this past season. That kick, which a normal high school place-kicker would have zero chance of scoring, staked his Bruins to what was a 17-7 lead at the time it sailed through the up-rights.

Jones was 21 for 21 this year in PATs and 4-5 on field goals including the 49 yarder above described. We would tell you Jones has one of the strongest legs in all of Kentucky, but we believe we have already told you. You won’t get any argument from Meade County.

Lucas Arevalo, PK, 5-10 and 185 pounds, Logan County High…

Okay there is a good news/bad news scenario here. The bad news is we couldn’t find a punter who we believed warranted inclusion on the 2021 All-State Football team. The good news…2021 appears loaded with quality place-kickers.

There were none any better or evidencing any more range than Lucas Arevalo who plays for the Logan County Cougars. Arevalo was 39/47 on his PAT attempts for an 83% conversion rate. He was 7 for 9 on field goals, hitting multiple field goals from 40 or more yards including one he nailed from 51 yards. A 51 yard field goal means the ball was at the opponent’s 34 yard line! What would have been a punt for probably 99% of the team’s in Kentucky not inclined to attempt to convert it on 4th down, for Logan County was a scoring opportunity realized. Don’t tell me a kid with range like that doesn’t impact a ball game.

Class of 2022 Specialist;

Jackson Smith, P/PK, Image taken from his Hudl

Jackson Smith, P/PK, 5-11 and 165 pounds, Boyle County…

This might have been the easiest selection to the entire Class of 2022, Kentucky All-State Football team. Jackson Smith is the Country’s best place kicker, in the class of 2022, according to most publications which make such ratings for place-kickers.

Jackson, the Luis Zendejas Award Winner at the Country’s top All-American game last December in Dallas, Texas (Bret Cooper Junior All-American Game), hit a 51 yard field goal in the Middle School State Championship game after having also been true from 27 and then 38 yards prior to converting from 51. This year, as only a freshman, Smith converted 56 of 60 PATs for a 93.3 conversion percentage.

On field goals, Smith was only 2 of 6 but some of the distances from which he was trotted out to attempt a field goal had a lot to do with that percentage as Jackson is sporting a cannon for a kicking leg. Jackson Smith helped his team convert a fake PAT for a two-point conversion a whopping 5 times on the year too.

Here’s a scary statement and why he made this team as the punter too; his father, Andy Smith, punted for the University of Kentucky and son, Jackson, may even be a better punter than place-kicker going forward. In any event, this is Kentucky’s premier specialist, talent-wise, in any of Kentucky’s eligible graduating classes still competing at the high school level.

Nic Schutte, P, 6-0 and 170 pounds, Louisville Male…

Talk about an athlete, KPGFootball remembers Schutte when he was a position player (QB) on Team Kentucky’s FBU Elite Squad. If one were to really think about it, a team’s punter has to be that type athlete.

The greatest punter in the history of football was a guy (pardon the pun) named Ray Guy and he played collegiately for Southern Mississippi before a long, HOF career in the NFL. Ray Guy, like Nic Shutte, also played QB as far along his athletic career as playing some QB at Southern Mississippi. Schutte came on for Male during its stretch run to the Class 6A State Football Championship and was on the field for the Bulldogs when it most counted, which counted most to our selection committee.

This is a punter who can flip the field position for a team and, should a team want to run a fake by either having Schutte boot the football around end or thrown it down the field; well…he possesses that athletic skill set too. That, in the end, is why he’s on our All-State Football team.

Well, these are our Specialists and exactly why we picked each and every one of them. There may be some specialists whom the reader believes to be better than what we have here somewhere in Kentucky. You could be right and there may be players we simply missed. KPGFootball supposes that to be entirely possible (though not too probable). However, KPGFootball is quite sure that, while these may not be the very best Specialists in the 2021 and 2022 classes; they are, definitely, among them. All of these players have distinguished themselves both on the field of play and in the class room. It will be fun to follow these guys as they continue to develop and play football next Fall. You will continue to hear plenty from these players in 2019 and beyond. 

Reporting for KPGFootball, this is Fletcher Long reminding all of the ballers out there that #WeGotUCovered and to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE.

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