Eagles have healthy competition at kicker
Eastern Washington has some questions at kicker, but none bigger than the ones Roldan Alcobendas faced a year ago.
Three months after signing with the Eagles early in 2013, the Camas High star injured an ACL – perhaps ending his college football dreams before they could begin. After all, Alcobendas was damaged goods.
But here he is, the favorite to kick field goals and extra points for the Eagles this season. As if there was any doubt.
“Of course we were going to stay with him,” coach Beau Baldwin said of Alcobendas, a 6-foot, 175-pound redshirt freshman. “I knew he would respond from that, and we’re confident in him.”
Nevertheless, the Eagles have three options at kicker, including senior punter Jake Miller from Spokane Valley and true freshman Jason Schwartz of Bellevue. At this point, Miller may handle kickoff duties, but Alcobendas has shown a consistency on short- to middle-range field goals that Baldwin prizes.
Last year, the Eagles attempted just eight field goals – making six – while converting a school-record 74 of 79 extra-point attempts.
“I’m going to go for it anyway from the 50 (yard-line) down to the 20,” Baldwin said Monday morning after the first of several kicking competitions scheduled for fall camp. “I want a consistency when we’re kicking from 35 yards on in, because unless it’s right before halftime, it’s (a field-goal try) not going to happen anyway.
“That’s what I want, is that ability to make the ones we’re supposed to make,” said Baldwin, who appreciates Alcobendas’ ability to do just that.
As a senior in 2012, Alcobendas was a first-team All-Greater St. Helens League selection after missing just one extra point and putting 96 percent of his kicks into the end zone for a team that reached the 4A semifinals. He also averaged better than 40 yards per punt.
But as winter gave way to spring soccer, Alcobendas’ knee gave way to the ACL injury.
“It was a major setback, but you got to move on with every situation that life throws at you,” said Alcobendas, who said the knee isn’t quite 100 percent, but close.
“I’m truly blessed to play at Eastern and them giving me another chance to do what I love,” Alcobendas said.
So far, so good. In spring ball, Alcobendas was 11 for 13 on extra points, and made both of his field goal attempts, from 25 and 36 yards.
Schwartz, a 6-3, 175-pounder from Issaquah, Wash., was first-team All-KingCo League last year, making 41 of 47 extra-point attempts and six of seven field-goal tries.
“I’m hoping to perfect my kicks try and make every one and do my best,” Schwartz said.
Long snapper Cory Alcantar said he’s impressed with both kickers. “They’re responding to adversity better than a lot of kickers I’ve been around – very sound and very confident,” Alcantar said.
For Baldwin, there’s safety in numbers. Miller may yet win all three jobs, but having three kickers in camp lessens the downside of an injury. If Miller is hurt, Schwartz and Alcobendas can handle punting duties.
Monday morning practice was contentious at times, with pushing and jawing on back-to-back plays during 11-on-11 drills. “One more and they’re going to make us run,” one player said on the sidelines. But calm finally prevailed, and practice proceeded without another incident. Said Baldwin: “I do like to see that intensity. We like to be on edge, yet be in control – we had a perfect mix of that today.” … Baldwin said Saturday’s 9:50 a.m. scrimmage will focus on red-zone and two-minute situations – “as game-like as we can make it” – and on moving the ball with tempo. It’s still early, but Baldwin said he’d like to see improvement in offensive pace. … Players will get today off before a two-a-day session on Wednesday.