TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Local Sports

September 9, 2013

Just for Kicks

North Laurel’s Keaton Kennedy is a valuable asset for the Jaguars

CORBIN — By John Stepp For The Endzone

When football coaches search the hallways of their schools for kids who can contribute to their offense, they’re not usually looking for a kicker. But, three years ago, that is exactly what happened to North Laurel Coach Chris Larkey when he asked junior kicker Keaton Kennedy to come out and see how he likes football.

The rest is history between the coach and player, as Kennedy has been the full-time kicker for the Jaguars since his freshman season. Since that time he has added a dimension to the North Laurel offense that Larkey has not been used to throughout his coaching career, even going back to his days at Rockcastle, where his teams played in two state championships.

“It’s not something you see a lot in the mountains, especially the schools that don’t have soccer programs,” said Larkey. “We never had soccer at Rockcastle, so we usually put one of those square toes on a lineman and let him kick.”

Now that Larkey has had a bonafide kicker on his team for a third season, he has become more comfortable taking three points when the opportunities present themselves. He even likes doing that now.

“Keaton has taught me that it’s OK to take three points instead of going for it on fourth down and possibly turning over the football,” said Larkey. “Keaton is a weapon for us. He hits his extra points, he can hit the field goals when we need him to, and he puts the ball in the end zone on kickoffs about 80 percent of the time. He is a big part of this team.”

Kennedy was always a star on the soccer field, but after spending his first two years of high school on the gridiron, he considers himself a two-sport athlete. To Kennedy, there isn’t a much better feeling than putting three points on the board for the Jaguars.

“What I love about it is going out there and putting the ball through the uprights and watching those points be added to the scoreboard,” said Kennedy. “There isn’t a better feeling than that.”

Despite Kennedy’s track record as being an accurate and successful kicker, Larkey still struggles when his team gets in the red zone. Wanting to make a good decision for his team, he debates whether or not to kick a field goal, but he’s working this year to get Kennedy as many opportunities as he can.

“There are still times that we get down there and I second-guess myself. I don’t have a problem putting Keaton out there and letting him kick, but it’s still hard because I want to make a good decision for the team,” Larkey said. “This year I’m going to try to just take the field goal. Last week against Williamsburg we had the opportunity to kick a field goal, and we threw Keaton in there and he put us by 17 points and we won the game.”

Larkey may second-guess the decision to take the three points on fourth down, but Kennedy is always ready to help his team.

“I’m over there anxious when it comes time for me to kick. He doesn’t always let me out there to kick, and sometimes I get upset with him, but I love going out there and getting it done,” said Kennedy. “I think I’ll get more opportunities this year.”

Despite Kennedy’s success as the North Laurel kicker, he still has one major feat left to add to his resume – kicking a 60-yard field goal, a Kentucky high school state record. Kennedy attempted a 57-yarder last season, but it fell short. But, that won’t stop him from trying to put his name at the top of the list.

“I’m definitely going after the state record,” said Kennedy. “I’m going to get it. Before my senior year is over, I’m going to get it.”

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