Tuesday, November 16, 2010

SPORTS>>Senior Hidalgo kicks in when team is in need

By todd traub
Leader sports editor

Cabot has gotten its share of kicks in its latest winning season.

The Panthers have had their share of kickers too.

Senior Will Hidalgo is the third place kicker to take the field with Cabot after senior Logan Spry was injured and sophomore Jesus Marquez hit a slump. Hidalgo, a standout soccer player, joined the team after a successful tryout and got his first action in the 54-20 victory at Little Rock Central on Oct. 15.

“We found him halfway through the season and he’s done a tremendous job,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “Kickoffs, extra points, even hit a field goal Friday night.”

Hidalgo caught on with Cabot in time to help the Panthers to a share of the 7A/6A-Central Conference championship and their 7A state playoff berth as the No. 3 seed from the Central.

The Panthers (9-2) play in the second round at Fort Smith Southside on Friday.

“I heard that they were in need of an extra kicker,” Hidalgo said. “I just rose to the cause to help the school out.”

Hidalgo kicked a 38-yard field goal in the first half of Friday’s 31-13, first-round playoff victory over Rogers Heritage.

Malham said the three points, which ended up being the last of the game, could have been critical because Heritage would need three scores to catch up. With the Panthers’ ball control running game, 

Malham said, they were in effect running out the clock on their third possession of the scoreless second half.

“Two scores, nobody’s ever out of the game,” Malham said. “You score, you get the onside kick. Boom.”

“It was my second field goal ever,” Hidalgo said. “The first one I missed because I got under it. I was a little bit more confident this time and luckily I made it.”

Spry had all-state potential but an abdominal injury, which is aggravated by the kicking motion, has relegated him to the defensive secondary.

Marquez had quality outings, and Malham has faith he is Cabot’s kicker of the future, but as a sophomore he doesn’t have the leg strength and touchback range of Hidalgo. Marquez also began to struggle with extra points.

“He’s a sophomore. He filled in there,” Malham said. “He was a little inconsistent. Didn’t do a bad job. 

When he finally did falter was when we had a little leeway there with Central.”

Malham expects Marquez to become more consistent with practice next year and add distance to his kicks with additional work and strength training. Marquez, far from having his confidence destroyed, expects the same.

“You’ll be back for me next year,” he said to a reporter visiting practice to talk to Hidalgo on Monday.

But in the meantime, the job belongs to Hidalgo, who came to the football tryout at the urging of Cabot soccer coach and football assistant Clark Bing, who invited a few of his stronger-legged players.

“When Logan went down we were concerned,” Malham said. “Really we’re in pretty good shape now. 

He’s doing a good job for a kid who never kicked a football until the fifth week of the season.”

Not only has Hidalgo never kicked a football before, he has never played the game.

He said more than the shape of the ball is different than in soccer; football kicking also requires different mechanics.

“You have to kick a lot higher up on the ball,” Hidalgo said. “And as a soccer player you have to kick under and I was so used to kicking under that it was kind of hard for me to process in my brain.”

He said his worst kick, other than his missed field goal, was his first on a kickoff at Central.

“I was really nervous,” Hidalgo said. “I think we got offsides on the first kick because I didn’t kick it. I was so nervous. But after that, it kind of went smooth.”

Though he has belatedly become a part of Cabot football tradition — the Panthers beat Southside for the AAAAA state championship in 2000 and reached the state semifinals last year — Hidalgo said he was thrilled to be in on the playoff action.

“I’ve never been a part of that so it’s pretty special to me,” he said. “Right now I’m pretty happy about it.”