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Archive for Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Woodling: Baker kicker awesome

October 9, 2007

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Three Questions with ... Baker University kicker Derek Doerfler

Baker University kicker Derek Doerfler, a former soccer player at the school, discusses the ins and outs of kicking. Enlarge video

Steve Rottinghaus and I were standing in a press box cubicle semi-high above the football field at Liston Stadium when Derek Doerfler unloaded a 31-yard field-goal attempt.

At the time Saturday afternoon, Baker University and William Jewell College were knotted in a scoreless tie, and I felt sure Doerfler's kick had sailed through the uprights.

"Looks like we didn't jinx him," I mentioned to Rottinghaus, BU's director of public relations.

My comment was in reference to a feature story that had appeared in that morning's Journal-World, an in-depth piece by sports writer Benton Smith chronicling Doerfler's forced transition from soccer to football because of a foot injury.

Athletes posting poor performances following publicity - think, the Sports Illustrated cover jinx - are always subject to a higher level of scrutiny. Thus, although hardly under a national microscope, Doerfler was nevertheless in a provincial spotlight, and consequently I felt of sense of satisfaction when the talented junior place-kicker gave Baker a 3-0 lead.

Except he didn't.

"The kick missed," Rottinghaus quickly rebutted. "It was wide-left."

And so it was. Oh, my. We had jinxed the poor guy, after all. Following the game, I learned that about the same time Baker coach Mike Grossner had been thinking the same thing, that the J-W feature story had put the whammy on Doerfler's right wheel.

Now, in retrospect, we can all joke about that fleeting moment because Doerfler went on to produce the greatest place-kicking performance in Baker University history. Not only would he become the first BU kicker to make five field goals in a game, he would nail an improbable 62-yarder with 39 seconds left to give the Wildcats a 15-13 victory.

I'm still in awe over that 62-yarder. First, you need to know that BU's Liston Stadium is laid out in an east-west configuration. Also, that the gusty wind was blowing out of the south southeast, and that Doerfler was aiming for the east posts from the left hashmark. In other words, he was kicking into the wind.

Granted, a 62-yard field goal isn't all that unusual. Kansas University's record, for instance, is 61 yards by Dan Eichloff in 1992 against Ball State. But 62 yards against the wind? C'mon. And yet Doerfler applied such punishment to the pigskin with his right foot that the downside of the ball's parabola cleared the crossbar with room to spare.

"He hits them in practice from 70 yards on a good day," holder Ryan Smith said.

Perhaps one of these days, given the right situation and the right atmospheric conditions, Doerfler will kick a 70-yard field goal. If he does, he'll make history because 70 is certainly the magic number and has been for decades.

According to the record books, the longest field goal ever made in a football game was 69 yards by an Abilene Christian player in the mid-1970s when collegians were allowed to kick off a two-inch high block.

And, if you're wondering, the NCAA distance record, held by four players, is 67 yards, with all four occurring at least 20 years ago. The NFL record is 63 yards by Tom Dempsey in 1970 and Jason Elam in 1998.

Maybe Doerfler is destined to become The 70-Yard Man. I'm not going to come right out and say he will be, though. I don't want to jinx him.

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