Vicksburg kicker earns trust of team with 50-plus yard field goals
With just under three minutes left in Friday’s game against Holmes County Central and his offense stalled at the 31-yard line, Vicksburg head coach Lorenzo Breland turned to his senior kicker.
After struggling early in the season with dropped punt snaps and missed field goals, Greg Hayden turned his year around much like the Gators as a whole. Following a made 27-yard field goal in the first quarter, Breland trusted his kicker to nearly double that and try one from 50 yards.
“We knew he had a strong leg and I told him he’s going to get some opportunities to make some big kicks down the stretch,” Breland said. “He’s been stepping up and making some big kicks.”
Hayden showed his coach that the trust was warranted by splitting the uprights down the middle with distance to spare to put the Gators up 26-6. It was the final nail in the coffin for the Gators, who went on to win by the same score.
“At the first snap I was a little nervous, but I had to shake it off and then I just thought I’m going to make it,” Hayden said. “In practice, I worked through it and I always practice it from 50 yards and coming back maybe 10. From the snap to the hold it came fast and I just followed it all the way through.”
The field goal was Hayden’s second of the season from 50-plus yards. He made a 52-yarder against Canton on Oct. 20. A week later against Callaway, Breland initially sent Hayden out for a 57-yard attempt before calling a timeout and opting to punt.
“It makes me feel special because he can put his trust in me,” Hayden said. “Going into the playoffs, I hope we still have the same bond with each other and we are going to continue to keep that.
“I hope they put their trust in me because anytime we come in from the 40 and anything closer than that I will be sure to try and pull it.”
According to the Mississippi High School Activities Association’s record book, Hayden’s 52-yard field goal was only the 30th of that distance or longer in the state of Mississippi since 1976.
Hayden may have had a chance to break the state record of 59 yards earlier in the game when he lined up for a 60-yard attempt, but a delay of game penalty pushed them back five yards and forced Breland to send in the punt team.
“We lined up from the same spot in practice the other day and he had the leg on it, but he was wide right,” Breland said. “We know he has a strong leg and we know if we get in his range we can use him. He has been doing a great job.”
After making both his 50- and 52-yard field goals with room to spare, Hayden wasn’t sure what the end of his range is, but said, “From anything I am willing to try.”