By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
SNOHOMISH — Glacier Peak football coach Rory Rosenbach said he’s not sure his team would have won either of its first two games without the Grizzlies’ leading scorer, junior Spencer Pettit.
Glacier Peak opened the season with nail-biting victories over Lake Stevens (24-20) and Snohomish (31-29).
Pettit is listed on the roster as a wide receiver and defensive back, but that’s not how he became GP’s scoring leader. He also serves as the Grizzlies’ place-kicker — and he’s one of the best in the state.
He has made eight of his 10 field-goal attempts this season, including kicks from 52 and 53 yards.
“If we get to that 30-yard line, I feel like we have points on the table now,” Rosenbach said.
Pettit said he gets bit more nervous for long field-goal attempts, but tries to calm his nerves by reminding himself it’s the same motion each time.
“I just go out there and think of it as the same kick,” Pettit said. “When I kick PATs (points after touchdown), those would be good from 50 yards, too. So I just have to hit it the same way.”
Pettit’s range leaves Rosenbach with decisions other high school coaches don’t have to make. For most prep teams, fourth down near an opponent’s 30-yard line leaves just one choice: go for it. Rosenbach has options.
Rosenbach said if his team faces fourth-and-8 from an opponent’s 35-yard line, it can expect to pick up the first down about 35 percent of the time. Pettit, on the other hand, makes that kick about 65 percent of the time.
“If we’re inside the 35 and it’s more than three yards (on fourth down) I feel like our odds are much better than 50 percent that he’s going to make it, which is a pretty nice thing to have,” Rosenbach said.
The flow of the game and the success his offense is having dictates his decision, Rosenbach said, but it’s difficult to pass up points.
“I don’t have to hesitate, like, ‘Oh man, can he make that?’” Rosenbach said. “I know he can make it. I know he can make the field goal. Now it’s how do I feel about our offense right now and the situation of the game?
“You’re always trying to get first downs and touchdowns,” Rosenbach said. “You never want to settle for field goals, but when the points are there, and you feel good with our guy’s ability to (kick), it can certainly make you a little more aggressive.”
The support of his teammates and coaching staff has done wonders for Pettit’s confidence.
“(The players) have confidence in me,” he said. “Since the first game of the season when I hit the 52-yarder, now they just expect me to do it. It’s nice that they have the confidence in me.
“I can miss one, like I have, and (coach Rosenbach) still knows I can go make the next kick,” Pettit added.
Rosenbach said he has seen Pettit make a field goal from 63 yards in practice. To put that in perspective, the NFL record for longest field goal is 63 yards and is held by four different players. The state record for the longest field goal was set a year ago by Central Valley’s Austin Rehkow, who’s kick of 67 yards is one of the longest field goals recorded at any level. Rehkow now kicks for the University of Idaho.
Rosenbach said if the right situation presents itself, he’d give Pettit a shot at Rehkow’s record.
“If we had a pretty good tail-wind, yeah,” Rosenbach said. “Shoot, right before the half, why not? That’s going to be stretching it for him and the conditions would obviously have to be just right — I’m sure the conditions were just right for that kid — but yeah, I’d let him have a crack at it.”
In addition to his eight field goals this season, Pettit has missed just one PAT, and that was blocked. Perhaps even more important, 75 percent of his kickoffs have reached the end zone. In high school, if the ball is kicked into the end zone, it is an automatic touchback and the opponent starts on the 20-yard line.
Pettit’s touchback percentage is an easy stat to overlook, but it has been a big weapon for the Grizzlies. It was perhaps most evident against Jackson, when the Timberwolves’ explosive group of kick returners didn’t get a chance to showcase their talents. On the other extreme, Pettit didn’t get one in the end zone against Bothell and Samuel McPherson returned it 98 yards for a touchdown.
Pettit’s goal is to kick in college, and he’s definitely on recruiters’ radar, Rosenbach said, although “with kickers it’s so different because you don’t recruit one every year. You recruit one every three years or four years.”
At least one school, Washington State, has expressed interest in Pettit.
“I certainly think he’s on the right track to doing what he wants to do, which is kick in college,” Rosenbach said.
Whether Pettit has the skill to kick beyond college, time will tell.
“All those guys that are in college typically have close to or have a good enough leg to kick in the pros,” Rosenbach said. “It just depends on how they mentally take to the game.”
Rosenbach likens the mental approach needed to be a successful place-kicker to that of a professional golfer.
“They have to have the ability to have a repeatable motion and do the same thing over and over again regardless of the conditions and regardless of the circumstances,” he said.
The mental part of the game shouldn’t be a problem for Pettit. All he has to do is remember the advice he received from Glacier Peak assistant coach Jim Kruckenburg.
Said Pettit: “I would like to thank Coach K for all his great coaching and telling me to kick it high and far”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.