VALDOSTA -- Pay any attention to college football this season and it's clear how big a part special teams, and extra points in particular, play a role in winning games.
Oregon State lost to Louisiana State after missing three extra points, Tennessee almost fell to Florida because of a missed point after and then Auburn was redeemed after missing an extra point against LSU.
Lowndes High football knows the importance of special teams and they've got an almost fail-proof secret weapon to insure success. His name is Kurtis Schmidt and he's simply known as 'the kicker.'
"(Special teams) is probably the main thing other than defense," Schmidt said. "Defense is the top priority, special teams is next."
When Region 1-AAAAA play begins this week for the Vikings, who host Colquitt County Friday at Martin Stadium, they'll have an advantage most region teams won't have. It's Schmidt and his almost automatic extra points, field goal range and ability to consistently kickoff for touchbacks.
"That is going to come into play for us," Lowndes' head coach Randy McPherson said earlier this season of Schmidt's touchback leg. "When you've got 80 yards of grass in front of you every time you start (a drive), it's tough."
In fact, Schmidt has kicked off 32 times this season with 26 of those kickoffs going into or out of the endzone. That means Vikings' opponents start at their own 20-yard line almost 90 percent of the time. On more than one occasion, Lowndes has been flagged for an offside penalty on the kickoff, and with the ball pushed five yards back, Schmidt has still kicked the ball out of the endzone.
The junior is next in a line of Lowndes soccer players to kick for the Vikings. Schmidt, an all-region soccer player last season, joins Thomas Bailey, last year's kicker, and Marc Herring, Schmidt's backup, as Lowndes' soccer/football kickers.
"I like soccer better, but I've gotten to like football," said Schmidt, who took up football in the seventh grade at Hahira Middle. "It keeps my leg in shape. I'm able to keep the same form (as soccer)."
Schmidt is also almost dead perfect on extra point attempts, hitting on 28-of-29 attempts. His one miss was Lowndes' final touchdown against Ware County. So instead of winning 45-13, the Vikings only won by 31.
"I took advantage of what I was doing," Schmidt said. "A guy came up and I just shanked it."
Schmidt's most recognizable achievement was the 47-yarder he drilled right before halftime of the Ware game, and even it had plenty of distance to spare. Schmidt is 2-for-3 on field goal attempts this season, his only miss a 44-yarder that sailed just wide right.
Schmidt says his goal in a game is to boot a 55-plus yard field goal, which, if the kick is accurate, he has the leg for. Practicing inside Martin Stadium each day away from the team, Schmidt says he's nailed a 62-yard field goal.
Schmidt missed a 50-yarder, his longest attempt in a game, last season against Colquitt, but he believes he'll get a chance to better that this season.
"(McPherson) said if we get up like we have been and it's close to halftime, I'll be able to kick a long one," Schmidt said.
Schmidt injured his kicking foot earlier this season, playing soccer during football season. He plays soccer year round and competes on a Tallahassee traveling team.
Of course, that's something that doesn't make the coach happy.
"He'd rather me not play," Schmidt said," but I'm about to start back because soccer starts in January."
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