COLUMBIA - Alex Keith had never blocked a punt in his life before Hickman High School’s football season began on Aug. 28. Two games into the campaign, Keith has two blocks — including one in the Kewpies’ 16-0 victory over Wentzville Holt Friday at Hickman Field.
With just under four minutes left and the Indians backed up inside their own 30-yard-line, several Kewpies broke through Holt’s line and Keith got a hand on the punt. The block led to a 29-yard Wesley Leftwich field goal that put the Kewpies firmly in control early at 10-0. The Kewpies' first score came on a 24-yard pass from Logan Fitch to Dylan Rodes.
Blocking a punt is no easy task. It takes a combination of teamwork and individual speed, Hickman coach Jason Wright said. It also takes sheer will.
“The biggest thing is that you have to want to block the punt,” Wright said. “You have to be quick off the ball, you have to be able to lay out, to keep your hands up and your chin down.”
The special teams work is not during Hickman’s practices but afterward, when most players are headed for the locker room for a shower and film study. Keith and his fellow special teams players stay out and work.
“It’s actually really fun,” Keith said. “All of us are out there just focused on what we’re doing.”
The special teams practices have paid off, and Keith drew comparisons from his coach to players like Josh Perry and Aaron Cawfield, Kewpies of old who excelled at blocking punts.
“Cawfield was the best, he set the state record,” Wright said. “Alex is a great athlete. He has a chance to be that good.”
Keith has excelled in special teams in 2010 but has been no slouch on defense either. He was instrumental in the Kewpies success Friday, creating havoc at defensive end and recording back-to-back sacks in the third quarter.
“The thing that we keep telling him is to play within the scheme,” Wright said. “He’s shown that he can make big plays.”
The Hickman defense was making big plays all night. The Indians gained just 89 yards of offense, 34 of which came on a pass from Jordan Smetana to Orlando Jackson in the third quarter. Holt managed just the one play of more than 1o yards, creating a stark contrast for a Hickman defense that gave up multiple plays of over 50 yards against Rock Bridge last week.
“I felt that after last week had we eliminated the big plays there would have been a different outcome,” Wright said. “If we can force teams to go on 16, 17, 18 play drives that makes it tough on them.”
The Kewpies next face Hazelwood West at 7 p.m. on Sept. 10 at Hickman Field.