Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

August 9, 2012

Lee displays strong leg for Spartans

PEARISBURG, Va. — Kicking and punting are one of the more overlooked parts of a high school football team.

Not at Giles.

Those skills have become as much of a weapon for the Spartans as their patented single wing offense.

Garrett Lee is the next standout with the strong leg for Giles.

“We have got one the best punters in the state and one of the best punters on the East Coast,” Giles head coach Jeff Williams said.

Lee is following in the footprints of other talented kickers/punters in recent seasons at Giles, including his brother, Gavin Lee, who has been succeeded by Nathan Tanner, Cody Journell, Zach Keaton and Lee is next in the line.

“My brother was a good punter, but he didn’t go to college anywhere,” said Lee, a senior running back, defensive back, punter and now kicker for Giles. “We had Cody Journell and then Zach Keaton and then I am kind of making it a third one to come through to go to college...

“That gives me something to shoot for, something to try and beat.”

Those aren’t bad shoes to fill. Journell has been reinstated at Virginia Tech and is expected to be the Hokies’ placekicker in the fall, while Keaton will be playing for Robert Morris. Tanner later became a standout receiver at Concord.

Lee, who already has an offer from the University of Richmond, was a second-team All-Group A punter last season. He wants first team this year.

“The Goochland punter got me last year, he was really good, he signed with Purdue,” Lee said. “If we don’t punt I am not going to be complaining, but if we have to punt I will try to make it good.”

He usually does. Lee, who had a long punt last season of 61 yards with no roll, will be trying his foot as a placekicker for the first time with the departure of Keaton.

“I am going to have to adjust to that,” Lee said. “I haven’t really been doing that too much, but I am going to have to step into his shoes too.”

The 6-foot-1, 181-pound Lee definitely has the leg, according to Williams, who compares him favorably to the strong-legged Journell, who was suspended prior to the Sugar Bowl last season, but has returned to the Hokies.

“They are right on with each other as far as a punter, and a kicker about the same, they have good strong legs,” Williams said. “I look for Garrett to kick one 65-plus this year without putting any roll on it.

“We will probably see that somewhere down the line, he will boom one out of there. Just to watch him in practice, it is just like ‘golly.’ It is great to have somebody like that that can punt the football for you.”

Williams, in his fifth season as head coach since replacing Stephen Ragsdale at Giles, is confident that Lee will do just fine as a placekicker too.

“We have been spoiled here since back when Nathan Tanner was kicking for us and then Cody took over for him and then Zach took over for him so we are looking at 10 or 12 years of great kickers we have had,” Williams said. “This year we are taking the best punter in the state and trying to make him into a kicker.”

Lee will also be busy elsewhere on the gridiron for Giles. He’ll be one of several backs trying to replace dual 1,000 yard rushers Brad Kessinger and Ethan Mitchell in the unique run-based single wing offense, a system he’s been running since elementary school.

“I don’t think I could run another offense, I have been running it since fourth grade and I love it,” Lee said. “I don’t know how I would learn any other thing.”

Part of a program that has won three state titles since 1980, Lee has come far from witnessing the Spartans winning the state crown in 2005. Gavin was part of the team that lost in the finals in ‘06.

“I used to be up there in the stands when Ricky Cook and those guys were out here,” Lee said. “I was real little, but I would come out here and watch them on Friday nights and I was excited.

“I started in fourth grade and now I am here.”

Also a standout in the secondary — or anywhere else Lee winds up on defense — Lee’s Spartans finished 10-2 last season, winning the Three Rivers District title before losing to eventual Division 2 champion Gretna in the second round of the playoffs.

“I would like to get two district titles in my junior and senior year, but it is going to be tough, it is not going to be easy,” said Lee, of Giles, which won state titles in ‘05, 1993 and 1980. “We just need to do what we have been doing for the past 30-some years.”

Yet, Lee will be most valuable for the Spartans with his left leg. In addition to his booming punts, Lee is expected to provide a steady diet of touchbacks on kickoffs, along with an emphasis in the preseason being placed on converting those all-important extra points after touchdowns.

“He was a little rough (kicking) starting out, but he hadn’t done a lot of it,” Williams said. “I don’t think he had kicked any until he went to a combine over at (Virginia) Tech back in May and over there they made all the kickers do it both, they made them punt and kick.

“We figure he has got the leg for it, he plays soccer, he is a great soccer player. We just figured he is a great football player for us and we can turn him into a kicker as well too.”

Williams feels like Lee has followed the example of past kickers like Journell and Keaton to become one of the best at his trade.

“Just the time he has put into it on his own and studying it and going to these camps and competing in these combines and camps, plus he has got a strong leg,” Williams said. “I think Garrett saw this is how I need to do it with punting.

“It is the same philosophy and that is why he has gotten so well and I think that is why our kickers have been so good. When all is said and done I would say he will be a pretty good kicker for us.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

 at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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