First Posted: 1/15/2009
PEMBROKE - The University of North Carolina at Pembroke's football coach Pete Shinnick saw a lot of things he liked in the Braves’ 31-21 Homecoming victory over Webber International last week.
His defense played well; his offense made big plays when it needed them most; silly mistakes that hindered UNCP in previous weeks went away.
Another satisfying development for Shinnick was the emergence of the Braves’ kicking game. Kicker Andrew Williams made all four of his extra-point attempts and booted a 31-yard field goal that helped seal the game for the Braves.
“That’s seven points right there that was key for us,” Shinnick said after last week’s game. “Andrew has come in and done a terrific job for us.”
Williams was named D2Football.com’s Independents Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday for his efforts.
One field goal and four successful extra-points might not appear to be a huge deal, but for UNCP it certainly is. Early on this season, the Braves’ kicking game struggled mightily. Zach Gornto entered the year atop the depth chart at kicker and made one-of-two field goal attempts. But he and kicker Jared Leblanc combined to make just 2-of-6 extra-point attempts. Leblanc missed 3-of-4.
However, Williams - a native of Fayetteville and a Gray’s Creek High graduate - has made 9-of-11 extra points. He’s also done a decent job on kick-offs, averaging almost 60 yards a boot.
“Andrew has been able to give us a lift in the kicking game,” said Shinnick, who added the 5-foot-9, 185-pound freshman to the roster just before UNCP’s third game of the season.
The advantage for Williams is that he’s able to get more arc on his field goal and extra-point attempts, making it difficult for defenders to block them. Opponents had been able to get to a few of UNCP attempts before Williams began kicking.
The emergence of a consistent kicking game should help an ever-improving UNCP down the stretch of the season. The Braves, 3-3, begin the second half of their season on Saturday when they face West Virginia Wesleyan at Lumbee Guaranty Bank. Kick off is 1 p.m.
A win would mark UNCP’s third straight and could lead to further success down the road as the Braves face off against opponents who have struggled so far this season. West Virginia Wesleyan is 2-4. Edward Waters, where UNCP will play next week, is just 1-3. The following week, the Braves will take on a winless Concord club.
Regardless of the schedule, UNCP still has to deal with the injury bug that has bitten the team this season. The Braves announced earlier this week that linebacker Seth Warren is officially done for the year due to a neck injury suffered against Jacksonville. Linebacker J.T. McCoy won’t play against West Virginia Wesleyan due to a leg injury, while wide receiver Jamar Dials and Woody Wilson are listed as doubtful
The good news for the Braves was that leading rusher Rashan Kennedy will likely be available to play after missing last week’s game with a high ankle sprain.