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Kicking underappreciated, but important

Valley Stream Central kicker Deshawn Newton punts the

Valley Stream Central kicker Deshawn Newton punts the ball off to Syosset. (Oct. 13, 2012) Credit: Steven Ryan

Hail to those who kick. Yes, those guys, the ones who sit on the bench for most of the game, barely getting their uniforms dirty. They are oh so important to a football team.

Every weekend we see games decided by a last-second field goal. Every weekend there are games decided by a made or missed extra point kick.

Punters can flip the field position throughout the game. They can punt an offense out of trouble. They can pin an opponent deep in its own territory. The guys with the big legs can eliminate the special teams threat to return a kick for a touchdown. The kicking game creates momentum swings.

There is little doubt that some teams struggle with the kicking game. Long Beach took a 6-0 lead on Garden City, the defending Nassau Conference II champion, and went for two in the first quarter of Friday night's game. That conversion attempt failed.

Garden City tied the score at 6 and Gerard Smith nailed the extra-point kick for the one-point lead. Long Beach played catch up the rest of the night. And on three occasions the Marines opted to go for the two-point conversion and came up empty. Final score, Garden City 20, Long Beach 18 and the Marines fell from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Conversely, Smithtown West rode the able leg of John Pacavic, who nailed field goals of 27 and 33 yards, as the Bulls upset unbeaten East Islip, 13-10. Pacavic was perfect on the day with an extra-point kick and the two field goals. The Redmen had a chance to send the game into overtime but a late field goal attempt went awry.

Harborfields also benefited from some clutch kicking when Tyler Phillips nailed a 31-yard field goal with 4:21 left in the fourth quarter to give the Tornadoes a 21-20 win over Rocky Point.

Pacavic and Phillips are heroes in their communities this weekend. The life of a kicker can be extremely stressful -- but those guys live for the moment. So here's to the kickers everywhere.

Battles of the unbeaten

Only nine teams remain in the quest for an undefeated season. The unbeaten dream ended this weekend for six more teams on Long Island. Three of those losses came in battles of teams that were both unbeaten. Garden City, Sayville and Babylon came away unscathed.

Garden City edged Long Beach, 20-18, stopping a two-point conversion attempt. The other two games weren't close. Sayville pounded Miller Place, 35-12, and Babylon downed Hampton Bays, 37-8.

Three other unbeatens fell when Farmingdale lost to East Meadow 48-38, East Islip lost to Smithtown West, 13-10, and Mercy lost to Shoreham-Wading River, 35-0.

Next week, Plainedge (6-0) takes its unbeaten record to play at Lawrence (6-0) on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Impact players

Success in high school football can sometimes lean heavily on impact players.

The loss of a quarterback without a viable backup can ruin the rhythm of an offense and shortcircuit a title run. The loss of a star halfback can shut down the running game. The loss of a key linebacker can be a definitive game changer.

The Sachem district is feeling the pain at East and North today. Super halfback Trent Crossan has missed two games with a leg injury, and his absence has coincided with the Flaming Arrows losing two in a row. The junior had 11 touchdowns in three games before being sidelined. His return is imminent at North.

Senior linebacker/halfback extraordinaire Steven Casali suffered a concussion and was removed from Friday's game against Connetquot. His contributions on both sides of the ball were sorely missed as Connetquot rolled to a 47-6 win. He is also expected to return to the East lineup and that can't be soon enough.

The future of a high school football team can be so fragile. Plainedge quarterback Nick Frenger was injured last week and sat out this week's 21-0 win over Floral Park. In this instance, unknown freshman Davien Kuinlan stepped in and became an instant star. Kuinlan completed 11 of 14 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 105 yards and a score.

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