How long is one and one-half seconds?
It’s over before the average heart at rest beats twice, or before a person (especially one of us Southerners) can comfortably say, “Happy birthday!”
Yet, in that short span of time in football, the center must snap the ball, the holder must catch and position it, and the kicker must step into and send the ball hurling toward the goal posts.
“It goes by fast, and because it does, it takes teamwork and timing among all three of us,” said Justin Chelf, senior kicker for LaRue County High School’s Hawks football team.
Chelf’s “team within a team” includes junior David Blair, who snaps the ball, and freshman Anthony “Smurf” Brewer who holds.
“We practiced a bit at the beginning of the season, but now it needs to be automatic,” said Chelf, who in only his second season as a kicker has hit 13 of 17 point-after-touchdown attempts.
Practice and consistency are the keys, noted Chelf. Each time he prepares to kick, he walks to the kicking tee, takes three steps back and two to the left.
“When I’m set, I just look at the tee and wait,” he said. “As soon as I see him catch the ball, I move with a stutter step, right, left, then kick with my right foot.”
He also likes for his holder to have the football’s laces opposite the part of the ball he kicks. Like many kickers today, Chelf boots the ball soccer style.
That comes natural for the 5-7, 130-pounder because the 17-year-old has played soccer since he was nine as an attacking mid fielder or striker.
“The kicking skills are pretty much the same for both football and soccer,” he explained. “If I lean back, the ball goes up; if I lean forward, it goes down.”
Last year, he came out for the football team when he found out the Hawks needed a kicker, and when he tried it, he liked it, and the coaches liked him, using him not only for PATs, but also for kickoffs.
“It’s always good to have someone like Justin who can send the ball deep into their territory at the five or ten,” said Hawks’ head coach Rodney Armes.
Chelf said on kickoffs he has sent the ball into the end zone one time.
“In practice, I once made a 50-yard field goal,” he offered, then added, with a smile, “with a 15-mile-per-hour wind at my back.”
In the short space between the snap and when his holder gets the ball, Chelf pictures it going through the uprights.
“I believe positive thinking might help; it sure won’t hurt,” he commented.
He has to remain positive, too, after a strained hip kept him out of the first two games this season. Although he admits, the hip is still sore, he’s ready to continue to kick the football, and also to play baseball where he is at second or shortstop.
“I may pitch some this year, too,” he said.
Chelf is not sure of his post-graduate major, except that he intends to attend Western Kentucky University.
“I want to focus on my education and on getting a good job,” he said.