There’s a play in football that simultaneously paralyzes sidelines for moments before causing one sideline to explode with joy and the other sideline to sulk in despair.
It’s a kick — a kick that’s won and lost playoff games, won and lost state championships. It’s a play that means three points at the end of a half or at the end of a season.
At three Denton-area high schools, there are kickers who have been vital to their respective programs for the past three years — Argyle’s Cole Hedlund, Aubrey’s Evan Moore and Ryan’s Marc Orozco.
All three kickers have hit field goals of 50 yards or more. All three have the talent to kick in college, but as of now only one of those kickers will be playing football after graduation this spring.
The head coaches of the three seniors will say that the kickers have been extremely valuable to all three programs.
Jamie Kohl, the co-founder of Kohl’s Professional Camps, said the rise of quality kickers in North Texas can be attributed to quality coaching, time and money invested into football programs and the overall growth of the kicker position.
Plus, Orozco, Moore and Hedlund are three of many kickers around the nation who fall under “where the athletes are better, generally that’s where you see some better kickers just because of the way the game is played,” Kohl said. “You have more intense preparation. That trickles down to the kicking game as well.”
Hedlund is chasing the state and national high school records for most career field goals and has orally committed to Arkansas. Moore and Orozco are still looking for places to call home for their collegiate careers.
Hedlund knocked through a field goal in Friday’s win against Aubrey, bringing his season total to 14 and his career total to 46. He is two field goals shy of tying the state record and four shy of tying the national record.
In 2011, Hedlund hit 25 field goals to set the national record for most field goals in a season.
Hedlund is the third scholarship kicker Argyle’s Todd Rodgers has coached. Cole’s older brother, Chad, is the kicker at Wake Forest. Prior to the Hedlunds, there was Ben Parks, who was a four-year letterman at Baylor.
“I’ve been real fortunate,” Rodgers said. “I’ve always had some pretty good kickers. I didn’t have one that I didn’t trust. We do a lot of things around here to make sure we have a good kicker.”
Hedlund, who hit a 57-yard field goal this season, isn’t the area’s only Class 3A kicker with a strong leg.
A few years ago, Aubrey head coach Mike Segleski was an assistant watching kids play soccer on field day. He quickly noticed Evan Moore and approached him about becoming a kicker.
After starting as the JV kicker for a few games his sophomore year, Moore moved up and became the varsity kicker, and he’s thrived.
This season, as the Aubrey offense has struggled, Segleski has turned to Moore as his most reliable scoring option. The Aubrey coach said that once the Chaparrals get close to the 30-yard line, they’re looking to come away with a field goal, something that’s almost been a sure thing with Moore.
“He’s definitely our main offensive weapon, without a doubt. We know that we can get three points out of it,” Segleski said.
In a loss to Sanger, the kicker who’s at the top of the Aubrey senior class set three school records: longest field goal (53 yards), most field goals in a game (three) and most field goals in a season (five).
Prior to Moore, no Aubrey kicker had ever made more than three field goals in a season.
When Moore knocked down that 53-yarder at the end of the first half, he said it was a good feeling to see the work he’d put in over the years pay off. It was something his head coach expected.
“Most years, you don’t think about attempting it,” Segleski said. “You’re throwing a Hail Mary, just trying to get into the end zone. We set it up and had all the confidence in the world that we had a shot at it. Most teams, that’s a prayer.”
Orozco has been a three-year starter for Ryan and received honorable mention on The Associated Press’ Class 5A all-state team in 2012.
“Marc’s been very valuable,” Ryan coach Joey Florence said. “It’s a great comfort and a great weapon to have on your football team. He’s by far been one of the better ones I’ve been around.”
When Orozco started as a freshman, he was a defensive lineman. Once the Ryan assistant coaches saw Orozco kick field goals, that was the end of Orozco as a lineman.
“I’m not a very big kid, and we’ve got some great D-linemen at this school,” Orozco said. “I don’t think it would have been very successful.”
Orozco’s knocked down a 53-yarder this season and provided the game-clinching win against Hurst L.D. Bell in the playoffs last season.
Both Orozco and Moore received Kohl’s four-star rating for kickers who usually end up at smaller colleges. Hedlund is a five-star recruit and ranked No. 5 in the nation. Kohl said five-star recruits typically end up at larger universities.
Orozco has received interest from New Mexico, while Moore visited Austin College in Sherman. Both are hoping the long field goals they hit land them a spot to play in the spring.
“There’s only so many spots available,” Kohl said. “That’s why you do need to be very excellent. Then at the end of the day, the biggest question nobody can answer is, ‘How are you going to do when you have 100,000 people watching you?’
“That’s the real test. And the only way to know that is if you put them in the fire week in and week out, over the course of a career.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.