The Philadelphia Inquirer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 8, 2004 · Page G04
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The Philadelphia Inquirer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania · Page G04

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Issue Date:
Wednesday, September 8, 2004
Page G04
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THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER Wednesday September 8, 2004 KICKING UP A STORM Best Fo ard G4 A Sectiont By Marc Narducci INQUIRER STAFF WRITER The kick had plenty of distance, but was wide right by just a couple of feet. Still, Gloucester Catholic placekicker Merf Trout wasn't discouraged. He had given it his best try. And even the perfectionist in him realized that 63-yard field goals aren't easy to come by. The kick, which came with 11.2 seconds left in regulation play during a 27-24 overtime playoff loss to Holy Cross last year, was easily long enough. But Trout's body language couldn't coax the ball between the uprights. Even with that miss, the fact that Trout was attempting a 63-yarder was a powerful statement about his placekicking ability and leg strength. The kick captivated a crowd and much of South Jersey and served to underscore the growing importance of the placekicker in high school football. "It didn't miss by that much," said Dave Trout, Merf's father. Dave Trout kicked professionally for the PhiladelphiaBaltimore Stars in the old USFL, and with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys in the NFL. "It was quite a kick," Dave Trout said. And in South Jersey this year, it is quite a class of placekick-ers. By season's end, placekickers could easily have a bigger impact on determining games' outcomes than any oversized defensive lineman, fleet running back or strong-armed quarterback. They are that good. In addition to Trout, West Deptford's Jake Brownell and Holy Cross' Marc Zucconi have drawn early interest from Division I recruiters. Shawnee's Kevin Dybalski, Eastern's Will Carney and Bishop Eustace's Brandon Cantor also have emerging profiles. More should appear as the season progresses. Best class ever? If those players maintain form, it is possible that this could be the best year in South Jersey scholastic history for placekickers. To earn that distinction, they would have to sur pass the feats of the Class of 1990. During that season, Lenape's Rob Juliano kicked a South Jersey single-season record 14 field goals; Camden Catholic's Rich Matson booted 12. Juliano holds the South Jersey career record with 30 field goals. This season's version of Juliano and Matson is Trout and Brownell. Trout missed half of last season after sitting out the required 30 days by the NJSIAA following a transfer from Camden Catholic. It didn't take him long to make an impression. "Trout is the best kicker I've ever seen," said veteran Williamstown coach Frank Fucetola. Fucetola got a firsthand look at Trout's ability last season when Trout kicked a 48-yard field goal against his team. The kick was nullified by an offside penal ty; Trout responded by converting the subsequent attempt from 53 yards away. "He's the best I've seen including college football kickers," Fucetola said. Trout took some time to find his niche and a high school home. He was a varsity kicker as a freshman at Washington Township, then transferred to Win-slow Township, where he kicked and played linebacker as a sophomore. After the season he transferred to Camden Catholic, where he never played football before winding up at Gloucester Catholic. Trout said that he feels much more comfortable at Gloucester Catholic than at the other schools, and says he has benefited from finally having stability. "It has helped me a lot being at Gloucester Catholic," he said. "There are so many great people, from the teachers to the principal to the coaches and my . . . . ' ; .- SHARON GEKOSKI-KIMMEL Inquirer Suburban Staff West Deptford's Jake Brownell had 37 touchbacks on kickoffs last season. He has 124 career conversion kicks. South Jersey Kicking Records Longest Field Goals NAME SCHOOL YEAR YDS. Bill Blackman Kennedy 1973 54 Brad Cost el lo Holy Cross 1990 54 Jeff Haug Cherokee 1993 53 Merf Trout Gloucester Catholic 2003 53 Rob Juliano Lenape 1990 52 Rich Maston Camden Catholic 1990 52 Mark Woods Lenape 1975 50 Kevin Cunningham Rancocas Valley 1983 50 Rob Juliano Lenape 1989 50 Scott Peeler Cherry Hill East 1993 50 Most Field Goals-Career NAME SCHOOL FINAL YR. FG Rob Juliano Lenape 1990 30 Joe Kucowski Northern Burlco 1990 17 Rich Maston Camden Catholic 1990 17 Ryan Molinaro Del ran 1998 16 Rich Racobaldo Camden Catholic 2003 16 Ken Dudnick Mainland 1998 15 Jake Brownell WestDeptford Active 15 Most Field Goals-Season NAME SCHOOL YEAR FG Rob Juliano Lenape 1990 14 Ryan Molinaro Del ran 1998 13 Rich Maston Camden Catholic 1990 12 Scott Shea Millville 1989 9 Steve Thurman Del ran 2000 9 Jake Brownell WestDeptford 2003 9 Rob Juliano Lenape 1988 8 Rob Juliano Lenape 1989 8 Tom Paulsen Paulsboro 1986 8 Jim Cooper Mainland 1980 8 EdNewcomb Williamstown 1994 8 Ken Dudnick Mainland 1997 8 James Galea Hammonton 2000 8 Most Extra Points-Career NAME SCHOOL FINAL YR. PAT Rich Racobaldo Camden Catholic 2003 145 Jake Brownell West Deptford Active 1 24 James Funk Paulsboro 2001 122 Dave King Holy Cross 2001 114 Keith Myers Palmyra 1979 101 Brad Costello Holy Cross 1992 101 Most Extra Points-Season NAME SCHOOL YEAR PAT Dave King Holy Cross 2000 55 Dave King Holy Cross 2001 52 Mike Valeriano Holy Cross 1996 51 Steve Wisnosky Moorestown 2000 49 Kicking Points-Season NAME SCHOOL YEAR PTS. Jake Brownell West Deptford 2003 74 James Galea Hammonton 2000 72 Dave King Holy Cross 2000 67 Jason Feinberg Mainland 1996 64 Steve Wisnosky Moorestown 2000 64 Jake Brownell West Deptford 2002 64 SOURCE: Chuck Langerman, South Jersey Football Magazine SARAH J. GLOVER Inquirer Suburban Staff Marc Zucconi of Holy Cross hit 7 of 1 0 field-goal tries last season. He just missed on a 67-yarder in the Parochial 3 state semifinal. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON Inquirer Suburban Staff Shawnee's Kevin Dybalski is a busy player. He also plays tight end and defensive end when he's not handling the kicking chores. teammates." Among the schools recruiting Trout are Louisville and Pittsburgh, where his father was a standout placekicker. Field-position factor Brownell is a four-year varsity kicker for West Deptford. Last season he connected on 9 of 13 attempts. He enters the season with 124 career conversion kicks, just 22 away from breaking the South Jersey career mark of 145 set by Camden Catholic's Rich Racobaldo. Temple has already offered him a scholarship; Northwestern is among the other Division I schools that have shown considerable interest. Despite his accuracy as a field-goal kicker, Brownell's biggest impact may be on kickoffs, where he had 37 touchbacks last season. Having a kicker who can routinely reach the end zone on kickoffs is a tremendous advantage for the kicking team. "If we win the toss, we will defer to the second half, because Jake will kick it in the end zone," said West Deptford coach Clyde Folsom, whose team is coming off a 12-0 season. "And unless it is a superior team, the chances of taking the opening drive 80 yards into the end zone are against you." By that time, Folsom said, his team may have already seized the momentum. "If we stop them on that opening drive and we get the ball at midfield, we're already in four-down territory," he said. "Once you score, you can do it all over again." Gloucester Catholic coach Tony Garczynski said that Trout's range also has enabled him to alter his offensive strategy- "If we reach the opponent's 40 and are stopped, we are thinking field goal," Garczynski said. "There aren't many teams that can say that." When he realized he would be adding a kicker of Trout's ability, Garczynski went right to the rule book. He discovered that if a high school kicker misses a field goal but kicks it into the end zone the opponent gets the ball at its own 20-yard line. "Even if Merf doesn't make a field goal, he will likely put it in the end zone, so a missed field goal might even be better than a punt," Garczynski said. All-around players What makes this year's kicking class even more impressive is that they are much more than, well, kickers. Trout and Brownell are two-way starters. The 6-foot, 190-pound Trout is a running back and hard-hitting lineback- er. The 5-10, 188-pound Brownell is a wide receiver and defensive back. During basketball season, Trout is a point guard; Brownell is a starter in basketball and baseball. Who knows how much better both could be if they could concentrate on their specialty. Instead, they take and administer hits on virtually every play during the football season, then switch to other sports later in the school year. "Last year I was kind of tired when kicking," said Brownell, who had five touchdown receptions. "Maybe if I just kicked, I would do better. But I love playing on offense and defense." Shawnee's Dybalski says that fatigue is bound to set in when kicking and also playing offense and defense, but he puts a different spin on the situation. "I get very tired, but when you are kicking, it's kind of a break because you aren't getting banged around on the play," Dybalski said. Like Dybalski and Brownell, Trout revels in the chance to contribute much more than just with his foot. "I enjoy playing the game so much," he said. "Kicking has come naturally to me. I've had my dad teaching me since I was 6. But I work really hard at running back and safety." Zucconi is limited to kicking and punting, but he was also a first-team all-South Jersey selection in baseball at third base. Last season he converted 7 of 10 field-goal attempts, including a game-winning 27-yarder in the playoff win over Gloucester Catholic the same game in which Trout narrowly missed on the 63-yarder. One of Zucco-ni's misses was a 67-yard attempt against St. Joseph-Montvale in a Parochial 3 state semifinal. Western Michigan is among the Division I schools that have shown interest. Zucconi says he hopes to play football and baseball in college. "Since we play other sports, we always stay in shape," Zucconi said. "You don't want to be a lazy kicker because you don't practice with the team. Playing other sports has been a huge part of the success the kickers in South Jersey have had." The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Dybalski also plays tight end and defensive end. Unlike Trout and Brownell, he could do more than just kick in college. He has nursed an ankle injury in preseason, but is expected to be ready for the regular season. "He's a terrific kicker, but I think he can be a I-A tight end in college," Shawnee coach Tim Gushue said. Carney connected on 6 of 9 field-goal attempts for Eastern. Cantor showed his ability under pressure last season by kicking a game-winning 32-yarder with 19 seconds remaining in Bishop Eustace's 3-0 win over Cin-naminson. With so many top athletes applying their foot to the craft, no doubt more top placekickers will emerge this season in South Jersey. It could be a season in which going for three points could be as exciting as going for six. Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225

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