Look for area placekickers to make a difference this football season

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I love the sound of the popping pads, the sweat, the exertion, the smell of wildfire smoke lingering in the air. Well maybe not the wildfire smoke, but the rest makes for good Friday Night Lights, which starts on Friday around the Columbia Basin. But once you get away from the sweat, the exertion and banging of helmets - there’s a group of young guys I think will bring a serious impact to the game during the 2018 season. The era of placekickers is among us. Yep, little guys that go out and make a half a dozen plays a game when it matters most. Hey, the Denver Broncos won a Super Bowl with five field goals and a defensive touchdown most games. I’m telling ya, Columbia Basin placekickers are going to rock.

The three-time 1A state champion Royal Knights go into the 2018 season with the fourth-longest winning streak (41) in the nation, according to MaxPreps. Alonso Hernandez, Angel Farias and Sawyer Jenks might be umpf in the offense, but another weapon in coach Wiley Allred’s arsenal is junior placekicker Osvaldo Guerrero. Guerrero had 15 points in PAT’s in the playoffs alone during Knight’s run to their third straight 1A state championship. He had three in the title game, five against Newport in the semifinals and a whopping seven against Okanogan in the quarterfinals. True, when your offense is averaging 56.5 points a game and capable of 75 points on any given night, there’s not a lot of need for a field goal. But I have no doubt, Guerrero’s good from 35 yards out. So, there’s one word on the Royal Slope - remember, you heard it here first - Guerrero. Out in Mattawa, the Wahluke Warriors found one of those soccer kids that helped upend Royal in the 1A state semifinals last season that I think can make some noise on the football field. First-year football coach Ryan Antos said Alex Valdez has the potential. “He came out and said he doesn’t want to play on the field, but he’d like to kick,” Antos said. “He made one from 60 yards the other day. Even if all he does is kickoff, that gives us quite an advantage pinning other offenses down.” The word along the Columbia River - Valdez. The Othello Huskies lost their money man on the field goal team when placekicker Patrick Azevedo decided to focus his efforts on a golf career. Who can blame the 5-foot-7, 140-pound junior who started at cornerback, ran down under kickoffs, played gunner on the punt team, returned punts, did a little work at wide receiver, as well as place kick. Patrick won the 2A state medalist honor as a freshman, placed top 5 as a sophomore. This past summer, he won the Washington Junior Golf Association District 4 championship. I get it, gotta go where the future is. But I would think the Huskies coaching staff might want to tap into the bonzer big leg of Bernie Garza Jr. Bernie’s a midfielder on his dad’s Othello soccer team and always had a big leg. I watched Bernie Sr., bring the kid up to the midfield line for an indirect last season. Bernie Jr., put the ball just over the crossbar on the fly. Of course over the crossbar from midfield is still nada on the soccer scoreboard. But over the crossbar from midfield in football is called a 60-yarder. Bernie Garza Jr., is untapped potential for a Huskies team looking on repeating as the CWAC North champs and go deep into the 2A state playoffs. It all starts on Friday at a stadium near you.

Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Sun-Tribune and can be reached at rharwood@columbiabasinherald.com

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