ATLANTA — Marion County punter/kicker A.J. Wells has done it a million times. Or at least it seems like that many.
Take the snap, punt the ball and drop it into an area no bigger than a mid-sized sedan. Or maybe a trashcan. The latter is what he said he practices with to make his punting so precise.
“It’s something I work on all the time,” Wells said after his team’s 12-3 win over Charlton County captured a state title. “My dad and I will put a trashcan on the field and I’ll try to punt it in. It’s a trick I can show off to my friends sometimes, and I guess it was pretty useful today.”
Just a little.
Wells landed punts inside the 15-yard line on three occasions—at the 14, the 8 and the 2. None was bigger than the latter, as it resulted in a safety for the Eagles two plays later. The safety gave Marion County a 5-3 lead and momentum, which it capitalized on two drives later to take a 12-3 lead it would not relinquish.
“Our goal was to do exactly what happened,” said Wells, who will sign on Monday to play at Middle Tennessee State. “Coach asked if I thought I could pin them, and I said I could. We did it, and the defense made the plays.”
Special teams, which usually includes a host of touchbacks off of Wells’ foot, as well, is such a major part of the Eagles’ game plan. Swaney has stressed it all season long, and it came up big again on Saturday. With nearly two full quarters still to play, Swaney already was thinking field position.
“I’ve got (Wells), and I’m smart enough to know what I’ve got,” Swaney said. “We said at the end of the first quarter that the defense was starting to settle in. I said, ‘We’re going to field position and kick it, and let’s don’t turn it over.’ We finally flipped that field in the third and fourth quarters.”
It’s rare that a punter may be considered the most valuable player in a game, but Wells was certainly in the conversation if for no other reason than having earned the trust of his coach to take advantage of those opportunities.
“He’s punted it in that hula hoop a million times,” Swaney said with a smile. “He moves it around and keeps hitting. We just told him to kick it away from them, and he did the rest.”
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