Kicking battles, young return game highlight special teams

Published 4:53 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2017

With less than four weeks to go until the season opener at Lee County, Bainbridge is still seeing heavy competition at kicker.

Senior Blake Green, who was Bainbridge’s starting kicker in 2015 before a back injury took him out last season, is healthy again. He was 1-for-2 on field goals with a long of 30 yards, and had a solid record of 35-for-36 on extra points.

Caleb Harris spent last year as the starting kicker for the Bearcats, and earned his way up the ladder from there. In 2016, he made two of three field goals with a long of 31 yards and was 26-for-31 on extra points.

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Both kickers are neck-and-neck and competing every day for the chance to kick kickoffs and field goals.

“Their limits are really close, how close do they have to get to attempt a field goal,” special teams coach Tommy Wheeler said. “They are both maxed out about the same. Blake seems to get the ball up quicker. Caleb kind of drives it more.”

In Green’s year off, his leg has gotten stronger, Wheeler said.

Over at punter, another couple of players are battling for the starting spot. Caleb Hall, who Wheeler describes as having raw power, and Caleb McDowell, a player who is getting lots of mentions from other coaches for his athletic ability.

“He’s just a talented kid,” Wheeler said. “He’s so athletic and he is taking it seriously. He stands a chance to play offense and defense, but (punting is) not a side job or anything like that. When he is punting, it’s all business.”

Receiving punts, the Bearcats have a versatile squad of players that can catch and run well. McDowell, A.J. Cooper, Aaron Spivie and Rashad Broadnax are all in the mix and possess the “fearless” quality that lets them handle the pressure the position can sometimes come with. That alone makes the freshmen McDowell and Broadnax even more impressive, Wheeler said.

“Caleb and Rashad, they don’t act like ninth graders,” Wheeler said. “What impresses me about them is their poise. They just belong out there. McDowell is a little shiftier. Broadnax is a little more straight-line, downhill.”