The concentration-filled seconds separating the snap and kick of a football are, literally, in the hands of the holder.
Does he catch it cleanly? How quickly and accurately does he place it on the tee? Is he able to spin it so that the laces are pointing toward the defense?
It’s a job often performed in the blink of an eye, and usually unnoticed — until it isn’t done right.
“Consistency is the key to a good holder,” Greenwood coach Mike Campbell said. “Kickers are very particular or peculiar when it comes to whom holds, so finding a guy who the kicker trusts is really important.”
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Games have been won, lost and tied because of a holder’s ability or inability to apply the repetition of practice sessions on a Friday evening with hundreds or even thousands of spectators watching.
Hardly a high-profile position, being a holder requires a unique football skill set unrelated to running, blocking or tackling.
A holder must, in rapid succession, catch the snap from center, place the ball on the tee, rotate the pigskin so that the laces are out and hold the football still with one or two fingers.
Only then can the kicker follow through with a leg swing.
Isaiah Drew, a junior receiver, cornerback and kick returner at Greenwood, is responsible for setting Woodmen kicker Lex Logan up for success. Of course, it all begins with the snap from senior center Andy Pollert.
Although Drew is coming off a sophomore season in which he led his team in receptions (28), he waited his turn when it came to being a holder for field-goal and conversion kicks. That responsibility previously belonged to the now-graduated A.J. Reingardt.
“This is my first year doing it, but A.J. showed me the ropes last season,” Drew said. “The most important thing is getting the ball on the tee so the kicker has a chance to kick it. The hardest part is spinning the ball.
“It can be difficult, but with the snap, hold and kick, it all just works together.”
Indian Creek holder Matt Coy is a cornerback for the Braves who is occasionally used as a receiver on offense. Coy estimates he works with special teams in practice for 10 to 15 minutes two or three times a week.
Coy works with two long snappers (Mendel Shank and Aaron Hart) and two kickers (Taylor Voris and Dylan Sprong).
“They are both great snappers,” Coy said. “The hardest thing is the timing of getting the ball, putting it on the tee and spinning it before the defense has a chance to block the kick.”
Coy sets the three longest fingers from his left hand on the tee while awaiting the snap. This gives the senior a sense of where he’ll immediately be placing the football.
Drew’s routine is slightly different; he places four fingers from his left hand (all but the thumb) on the tee.
In both cases, the kicker starts his approach toward the football when he sees the holder’s left hand going up to catch the snap.
At the prep level, the holder is usually a quarterback, backup quarterback, receiver or defensive back — someone accustomed to having his hands on the football.
“If everything breaks down and you have to pick the ball up and make a play, a quarterback feels comfortable back there,” Center Grove coach Eric Moore said. “There’s that threat to score a two-point conversion.
“We try to have three to four different holders and snappers in practice every day and keep one or two (of each) in each class.”
Seeking a way to get on the field during the 2016 season, Moore’s son, Jackson, the Trojans’ backup quarterback as a sophomore, emerged as the holder for classmate Luke Eckert.
Despite the increased workload this fall for Moore, now the starting signal-caller, he still holds for kicks.
“Me and Luke are really good friends, and last year I wanted to be on the field on Friday nights. I just fell in love with it,” Jackson Moore said. “The hardest part is focusing on catching the ball and putting the ball on the tee, because Luke can hit from anywhere.
“It’s just about giving him a chance.”
The list of local players who do the holding for field-goal and point-after attempts:
Center Grove;Jackson Moore;QB
Indian Creek;Matt Coy;WR/CB