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Eastside kicker Smith sets school record with 45-yard field goal

COVINGTON -- Eastside senior Colton Smith's 45-yard field goal last Friday against Jackson wasn't just the first points the Eagles put on the scoreboard en route to a 23-14 come-from-behind victory. It also turned out to be a school-record kick.

Eagles coach Rick Hurst said Thursday that in his eight years at Eastside, he's never had a kicker exceed the 45-yard standard and he also conferred with faculty members who've been at the school since it opened in 1996 and no one could recall any Eagles kicker reaching the mark.

"It's a school record as best as we can tell," said Hurst, whose team lost to county rival Alcovy 24-10 on Friday and will open Region 8-AAAA play at Chestatee on Sept. 21. "In the eight years I've been here, we've never had one that long. The county record is 47 yards (set in 1960) ... He's kicked some 42, 44, 45 yards in practice, but we'd never tried one that long before. We feel his best distance is 40 yards in."

"It really gave me a shot in the arm it was an exciting moment," said Smith, who kicked a 40-yard field goal against Alcovy. "And I think it gives the team a lot of confidence when it comes to fourth down; they know there's somebody they can turn to to put points on the board.

"On that kick, I didn't even realize it was 45 yards. I just knew I had to go out there and do my job. It was a perfect snap, a perfect hold and there was perfect blocking. At that point, the distance was irrelevant."

Smith also kicked a 35-yard field goal in Eastside's season-opening victory over Newton. The 6-foot-2, 165-pound Smith was a perfect 11-for-11 on extra points and went 7-for-14 in field goal attempts last fall, with his longest coming from 38 yards out.

Against Jackson, Smith had already had a field goal attempt blocked before he made his record-setter.

"I felt that Colton had the leg to make it and if he didn't, we knew he'd get it in the end zone, so it would be a touchback and they'd have to start on the 20-yard line," said Hurst. "We could have punted it and might have gotten it inside the 20, but we took a gamble and it paid off and it stood up until the fourth quarter."

Smith is also a key weapon for Eastside on kickoffs, where he's been known to boom it out of the end zone from time to time but is perhaps a better directional kicker.

"On kickoffs, we try to put it between the numbers and the sideline we want to pin people to the sidelines as much as we can," said Hurst. "If he kicks it into the end zone, great, but if he kicks it inside the 5 that gives our return team a chance to go down and make a big play. Our opponents are starting their drives at average on their own 22-yard line. We've only had one touchback so far."

Place-kickers are often thought of as a different breed of football player, working on their talent apart from the rest of the team, but Hurst said Smith is an Eagle through and through.

"Colton is a great kid. He's a hard worker," said Hurst. "He's never missed a summer workout he's been with the team lifting, conditioning and working on his agility. He's trained hard on his kicks and his teammates see that, which is probably why they look at him differently than other kickers. He's out there with the rest of the team every day."

Hurst added that Smith who has drawn interest from several Division II and Division III schools -- has the perfect mentality to be a kicker.

"When you're a kicker and you're called upon, you're either the goat or the hero," said Hurst. "He's got a short memory, which is something kickers have to have. He's worked extremely hard and was very excited about the school record. On Sunday he was asking me if I'd give him a shot at the county record and I'm sure we will.

"A kick like that really boosts confidence and I'm definitely confident in him, because even if he misses, he's probably going to put it in the end zone. I like my odds, though. If we're inside the 30, we'll give him a shot."

"In practice, I'm good from 55 yards in," said Smith. "If I get the opportunity to go for the county record, I'll make the most of it. I just want to be the best kicker I can be."

It seems that Smith rises to the occasion against Jackson. In 2011, he missed four field goals against the Red Devils before connecting on the game-winner in a 10-7 Eastside victory. And last Friday, his 45-yarder also came against Jackson, which plays in Region 2-AAA.

"We've beaten Jackson four years in a row we've really taken it to them," said Hurst. "But Colton is confident no matter who we play."

"Jackson is a good team and it always seems like a dogfight with them," added Smith. "But as far as I'm concerned, they're just another team and it's just another game. It doesn't matter if it's a kick in the first quarter or it's in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. I treat every kick the same. Both those kicks against Jackson were very special and I feed off that."