Rogers keeps on kicking for Eagles

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 23, 2004

Porters Chapel Academy kicker Evan Rogers attempts a field goal during practice last week. (Meredith SpencerThe Vicksburg Post)

[9/23/04]Just a few yards behind him, the sounds, smells and excitement of Friday night football filled the air. Evan Rogers kept an eye on all of it, knowing he might be called on at any time, but his focus at the moment was on the darkened practice field at Tensas Academy.

There, right on the edge of the Porters Chapel sideline, a goalpost jutted out of the earth. For the man they call “Kicker,” it provided an opportunity too good to pass up. He teed up a football and knocked it squarely through the uprights.

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Then, he did it again.

And again.

And again.

For four quarters last Friday, Kicker boomed practice shots into the sultry Louisiana night. It was a different routine than he was used to Rogers normally stands far away from his teammates during games but it showed the dedication to his craft that has endeared Kicker to the rest of the Eagles.

“He’s just a kicker, and those kickers are an odd breed,” PCA coach Randy Wright said. “We just kind of let him do his own thing, and he’s doing an outstanding job for us.”

Rogers started his football career by getting kicked around, and out of, several different positions. He played on the line and at wide receiver for Warren Central Junior High, having little success at either.

“I figured I was too small and I didn’t like it anyway,” the 5-foot-6, 130-pound junior said of his brief career as a lineman. “Then they moved me to wide receiver, and that didn’t last long because I couldn’t catch.”

Rogers finally found he had a knack for kicking the ball, and a new job to go with it. When he got to high school, however, he played behind all-state kicker Will Clark for two years at Warren Central.

Last spring, after Clark graduated, the job was up for grabs. Joey Bonelli was receiving most of the playing time, though, so Rogers went to see Wright about transferring to Porters Chapel.

“He came into my office and I asked him what he could do. He said, I kick,'” Wright said. “I asked if he played any offense. He said, I kick.’ I asked if he played any defense. He said, I kick.'”

Despite having a small roster of around 20 players, that was fine by Wright. He had been an assistant at PCA for 10 years before becoming head coach, and had seen several solid kickers at the school. One of them, Erick Simmons, booted a 50-yard field goal in 1999.

None had been there just to kick, however. They always had to play other positions, and sometimes missed critical kicks because of fatigue. With Rogers, that’s no longer a concern.

“We’re hoping it’s going to be very valuable for us,” Wright said. “We have a lot of confidence in Kicker. I wouldn’t hesitate to put him out there with the game on the line.”

So far, that hasn’t happened. Rogers has drilled a 47-yard field goal in practice and feels comfortable from 40-to-45 yards, but hasn’t attempted a field goal in a game. On one of the few occasions where he lined up for one, a bad snap nixed the try and holder Cole Smith ended up running for a touchdown.

That doesn’t mean Rogers isn’t showing his worth in other ways. He’s 24-for-28 on extra point attempts this season, and made a touchdown-saving tackle on a kickoff return to save a shutout against Union.

“He got through. I just kind of got in his way and held on,” Rogers said with a laugh. “It made me feel a lot more powerful.”

And, surely, more appreciated by his teammates.

Rogers rarely seems to associate with them when it comes to football. He usually stands far away from them during games in an effort to concentrate, he said and kicks on his own during practice. Other players joke that they never see him until game day.

“He’s all normal away from the game, but during the game he’s got his weird side,” linebacker Gerald Mims said. “He’s a true kicker.”

The other Eagles have Rogers’ back, though. During a win over Greenville Christian earlier this season, one of the Saints took a shot at him on a kickoff. A Greenville linebacker ran forward after the kick and knocked Rogers to the ground.

On the next kickoff, one of Rogers’ teammates knocked that same linebacker to the ground. Kicker’s uniform stayed clean the rest of the night.

“It’s a team game, and he’s a part of the team,” Mims said. “There’s going to be some tight games this year, and he’s going to make the difference between winning and losing.”