By T. Scott Boatright
Football coaches often say that it’s the “little things” that often can make a difference between winning and losing a game.
That’s often true. And sometimes, maybe even shockingly, it’s the little players who can turn in huge performances that can help in a winning effort.
That was certainly the case for the Cedar Creek Cougars Friday night during their 54-7 home win over River Oaks Friday night. Granted, a 54-7 win might not seem huge at first thought, but it was the smallest Cougar who roared loudest in his first prep football game ever.
After struggling to successfully kick extra points during its first three games, Cedar Creek turned to seventh-grader Davis Long, who stands at 5-0 and weighs 105 pounds, to take over those duties for the Cougars.
Long responded by making six of seven extra point attempts, filling a big void the Cougars had faced through the early part of their season.
Cedar Creek head football Matt Middleton had to convince himself to turn to the youngster, and it was Long’s father, new Cougars head baseball coach Trey Long, who helped finally make the decision to give it a try.
“Trey and I played high school football together and he was our kicker at West Monroe — he was two years ahead of me there,” Middleton said. “I’d been watching Davis out here since Trey took the (Cedar Creek head baseball coaching) job kicking field goal after field goal after field goal … just practicing kicking.”
And as he watched Long kick, while also watching his football team struggle to score on any kind of kick, he realized he needed to have a talk with himself.
“It was one of those deals where I finally got my pride out of the way and told myself, “This is a little dude who can help us, if I can get past the fact about what grade he’s in and how big he is.”
And while Middleton had coached much bigger eighth graders on other smaller high school teams, coaching a seventh grader and a player as small as Long are both new experiences for the longtime coaching veteran.
“My son played for me as an eighth-grader, but I’ve never had a seventh grader on a team,” Middleton said. “Trey and I talked about it in detail. I want to protect him. I didn’t want to get Davis out there on kickoffs. We have a guy — Conner Norris — who does a good job for us on kickoffs. It’s just one of those deals where Davis is money on extra points. I finally had to tell Trey, ‘If you want him to do it, I’m OK with it.’
“Me being a dad and having sons, one who played for me in the eighth grade, and he didn’t kick — he ‘play played’ and took some big shots as a young kid — really probably made me more leary than anything just because of what I went through with my son. That’s the No. 1 deal, protecting Davis and making sure he’s OK.”
Eventually, Middleton convinced himself it was the right move to make for everyone involved.
“So we decided to give it a shot. We did everything to do with the (Louisiana High School Athletic Association) to get him cleared, and that wasn’t hard because he was already here on campus, and then he goes six-of-seven Friday night. When I tell you he’s money, he’s money.”
Middleton said that for now, Long will primarily be used only for extra point tries. But he also feels the Cougars’ kicking game will only get bigger and better just as Long will in the future.
“His range is probably only 20 yards at this point,” Middleton said of his new kicker. “But as consistent as he is now, every year he’s going to get better and better and better as he grows and gets stronger. But we have gone through some situations like the St. Frederick game where not being able to kick an extra point might have been the difference between a win or loss, because we had to go for (a two-point conversion) and ended up losing 7-6. Being able to kick extra points is huge, even if your kicker isn’t.”
As could be expected, Long isn’t very vocal at this point, but that has nothing to do with his confidence.
“He’s very quiet and reserved, but it’s kind of a quiet confidence,” Middleton said. “There’s a picture of him running off the field after kicking his first one Friday night with all of the other guys draped all over him. That picture says it all, about his confidence and the confidence he is giving this team. He does what he’s asked to do. He just kicks. He doesn’t have to do anything else — just kick. But that’s huge because that was a big factor we were missing.”
Long’s father said that playing soccer for several years for West Monroe high school assistant coach Chris Barron also helped him learn the art of kicking.
“He’s been kicking since he was about 9,” Trey Long said. “I wanted him to be ready. I felt confident in his ability to be able to do it. I just wanted him to be mentally ready to go out there and do it, and go out there on his terms and not just because he felt like he had to do it or anything like that.”
The younger Long, who also plays shortstop and second base on the baseball field, said he had no concerns, or nerves, running onto the field for his first extra point attempt for the Cougars.
“I was really confident because my snapper Nicholas Thompson and holder Ladd Thompson are both really good at their jobs,” Davis Long said.
And there’s plenty of reason to believe that the Thompsons along with the rest of their Cougar teammates are plenty confident in their new and young kicking weapon, no matter his size or age.
To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE