Mt. Blue High School head football coach Jim Aylward watched game film of Lawrence, the Cougars’ next opponent. One play made him shake his head in disbelief.

“You watch game film and you watch a kid kick a 42-yard field goal and realize it would be good from 55, you go ‘Wow, that’s impressive,’ ” Aylward said.

Chad Martin’s field goal against Gardiner on Friday night was officially a 43-yarder. While Martin’s field goal was notable, the Lawrence senior wasn’t the only kicker in central Maine to boot a field goal in the season’s first week. Dylan Hapworth of Winslow made a 34-yard field goal in a win over Madison. Waterville’s Dan Pooler drilled a 26-yard try in a win over Foxcroft Academy. Spencer Buck made a 22-yard field goal for Cony in a win over Messalonskee.

The field goal has been a rarity in Maine high school football for years. With more teams having confidence in their kickers, that could change this season, particularly in central Maine, where kickers are enjoying a renaissance.

“I think kids are recognizing it as a nice way to get on the field and contribute. I think we see more kids putting in the time,” Lawrence head coach John Hersom said.

Martin and Hapworth have been the varsity kickers for their respective teams since they were freshmen.

“We’ve been very fortunate with Chad, for him to be as passionate as he is about kicking,” Hersom said. “He’s gone to a few camps, where he’s gotten some great instruction. We can’t take much credit for it.”

Winslow head coach Mike Siviski sees Hapworth’s kicking ability as a weapon the Black Raiders can use in all three phases of the game.

“His kickoffs are usually hard and deep, and that can help set up our defense, too,” Siviski said. “It is a weapon. He’s been at it so long, he directionally kicks well. He’s a threat.”

Hapworth started kicking when he was in the third grade, and would work on it with his grandfather. Like Martin, Mt. Blue’s Anthony Franchetti switched to football after playing youth soccer, and that was his introduction to kicking.

“I played soccer until fourth grade. It was, hey, who can kick a football? I guess it was me,” Franchetti said.

Kicking is such a specialized skill, most high school coaching staffs don’t include a coach who has firsthand knowledge of how to do it. Also, most kickers play at least one other position, and have to devote practice time to more than letting field goals fly. For example, Martin plays tackle and inside linebacker for Lawrence. At Winslow, Hapworth is a running back and defensive back.

“It’s not like (Franchetti) gets to just go kick in practice. It’s hard to develop as a specialist in this age where you really have to play a position as well. He’s my center,” Aylward said.

Martin and Hapworth said they don’t get nervous before a big kick. At this point, it’s just repeating a motion.

“It’s a like a foul shot, with the PAT. You do the exact same thing every time. With field goals, you obviously have to put more into it,” Martin said.

Added Hapworth: “Just kick the ball through the uprights. From the outside in, you can think ‘He must be, Oh my God.’ It’s really not. It’s muscle memory now. It definitely helps playing other than kicker. When you’re just a kicker, it’s all you worry about.”

Franchetti echoed those sentiments. The best thing a kicker can do in a game situation, is just stop thinking and kick the ball.

“Just be quick to the ball. You don’t have to pound it through. If it’s an extra point, just give it what it needs and it’ll go through,” Franchetti said.

Siviski said Hapworth has made 50-yard field goals in practice. Aylward wasn’t exaggerating. Martin’s field goal at Gardiner on Friday would have been good from 55 yards, which is close to his longest in practice. In deciding to try the field goal, Hersom was never concerned with the distance.

“The only debate we had on the headsets was, there was under three minutes left in the half. Had it missed, it would have given Gardiner a little better field position,” Hersom said. “As far as the distance, I was pretty comfortable. It was a nice shot, and it was dead center, too.”

Hapworth said he can’t recall anyone calling timeout to try to ice him, although on Saturday, Siviski called timeout before an extra point try. Hapworth had just returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown, and Siviski wanted to give him a minute to catch his breath before the kick.

For coaches not used to having a strong kicker, learning to trust the one you have can take time.

“If it’s a weapon you have at this level, it’s awesome. A lot of times, we all figure we’re in four down territory once you get down inside the 30 yard line or so, and maybe we don’t play our hands as well, because we’re thinking we have no other option,” Aylward said. “A kid like Anthony or a kid like Martin from Lawrence gives you more options. It lets you be a little smarter offensively.”

More coaches can expect to see film of Martin kicking long field goals this season. If given the choice between a long fourth down try or a solid opportunity to score three points, Hersom will take the points.

“We know it’s of great value,” Hersom said, “and we intend to use it.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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