Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

August 11, 2012

Getting his kicks

BLUEFIELD — ustin Mariotti’s foot has been very important weapon for the Bluefield Beavers the past three seasons.

The rising senior has been a three-year starter for Coach Fred Simon’s team and now in his final year at Bluefield, is looking to help the Beavers back to the playoffs and a state championship.

In 2011 Mariotti was nearly perfect in his placements. He made 22-of-23 extra point attempts and five-of-seven field goal tries, with a long of 43 yards in last year’s season finale against the eventual state champions, the Wayne Pioneers.

“That kick, I could have mis-hit that kick and it still would have gone through because I had such adrenaline pumping after they (Wayne) came down and scored,” Mariotti said. “I knew that was a vital field goal at that time, just to be able to try to keep our drives rolling and keep momentum leaning towards us for that point in the game.”

Those points, unfortunately for the Beavers, would prove to be the only ones they scored that night against Wayne.

Mariotti began kicking in the eighth grade when he said no one else could do the job at Bluefield Middle School. Once at the high school, he realized that kicking would be a way to secure a spot on the Beavers’ roster.

“I came up here my ninth grade year and saw it was going to be tough to get a position on that team, it was basically loaded from top to bottom,” Mariotti said. “I saw one day that Coach Simon was looking for somebody that could perform the job.

“I did well in a JV game and Jake Lilly pointed out to him in the film that I was doing good and he got a chance for me to come in front of Coach Simon and I did will with that chance and it took off and I have been getting better every year since then.”

Mariotti’s progression did not come easily. He has worked hard in the off-season and attended several camps to learn new techniques to better his skill.

“I went to WVU’s camp and got a lot of different pointers on the approach, the mechanics and everything else that I was doing wrong in that ninth grade year that were causing inconsistencies,” Mariotti said. “In that camp they made me kick off the ground, which requires a perfect strike pretty much every time, and when that translated over to the block, it turned into more height and more distance on my field goals as well as more accuracy.”

In Mariotti’s freshman year the Beavers had two good young kickers, Mariotti and Andrew Shaw. Mariotti said he and Shaw worked out together in the off-season between his freshman and sophomore years, but then he got a big surprise when Shaw decided to play on the Beavers soccer team.

“Coach Simon came up and talked to me and said, ‘The job is yours this year because Shaw decided not to play,’” Mariotti reminisced. “That gave me motivation to keep working to make sure I could perform the job the way that the team needed.”

Mariotti, who also plays baseball for the Beavers, said his most enjoyable moment in a football uniform came his first season at Bluefield High.

“Getting the chance to kick as a freshman in the 2009 state championship game, that’s something that will just never leave me,” Mariotti said. “I was blessed to be able to have the opportunity to start that year.”

Looking to this season Mariotti has set goals for himself, that if he meets, he believes will benefit the team.

“I’d like to cut out on ANY misses, extra point wise,” Mariotti said. “I’ve worked hard in the offseason on accuracy drills and I don’t believe that I should miss any of those.

“I would like to be able to give the team about a 75 percent touchback rating, which means about three out of four of my kickoffs are going into the end zone. I think that would be something that would tremendously help our defense, field position wise.”

Mariotti’s brother, Kelly, played for the Beavers in the early 2000s and is a motivating force for the kicker. When the elder Mariotti was on the team, Justin served as the team’s ball boy.

“It is pretty neat for me to be able to follow in his footsteps and be able to take a starting role, just like he did, and he’s always pushing me to be the best I can for this program, because the program meant a lot for him coming through.”

Mariotti is well aware of what the Beaver program means, not to him and his family, but for others all across the nation.

“Coach tells us that we have previous players in California that are listening to our games every week,” Mariotti said. “There are people like my brother, who want to be a part of the program any way they can, even if that just means coming to the games on Friday night.

“It’s just a special kind of atmosphere when you step out onto that field in front of all of those fans. Every person in the city believes in our program. That helps the tradition tremendously.”

The senior kicker praised his coach for his dedication to the program and his fair approach.

“When you first start out, Coach Simon gives every player a fair chance and that’s something that gets a lot of respect amongst his players,” Mariotti said. “The trust level is gained throughout. He believes in his players and that’s one of the reasons why we have such a good tradition here.”

As for the future, Mariotti would like to continue kicking in college. He has attended several prospect camps and has some decisions to make in the next several months.

“I would like to play college football,” Mariotti related. “I went to several prospect camps in the offseason, trying to get my name out there, and I’ve gotten a pretty good among of emails and calls back off those camps. It will just be picking the best academic and athletic fit for me in the fall.”

Mariotti and the Beavers scrimmage at Christiansburg this morning at 10 a.m. Next Saturday at 10 a.m. the Beavers will welcome Shady Spring to Mitchell Stadium for their final scrimmage.

The regular season begins Aug. 24 with the Battle of the Bluefields against the Graham G-Men at Mitchell Stadium.

—Contact Bob Redd

at bredd@bdtonline.com

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