By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal

MUSKEGON – Most fans assume that kickers face the worst kind of pressure in crucial game situations.

But Muskegon Catholic placekicker Griffen Seymour feels the heat in practice, as well.Shoreline football instory art

His coach, Steve Czerwon, gets him ready for stressful situations by putting him on the spot during workouts. When the rest of the team is finished practicing, they gather around and watch Seymour practice extra points and field goals against a live defense.

The team is scheduled to run sprints after practice. For every kick Seymour makes, a  sprint is deducted. If he makes them all the players are sometimes excused from sprints altogether.

Football players typically dislike sprints. So the Crusaders count on Seymour to make good kicks and get them out of the extra running.

MCC kicker Griffin Seymour prepairs for an extra point. Photo/Tim Reilly

MCC kicker Griffin Seymour prepairs for an extra point. Photo/Tim Reilly

That’s pressure.

“”The whole team relies on me,” said Griffen, a senior and second year varsity football player. “Last year, out of 14 weeks, I think I missed two field goals in practice we had to sprint on. All the rest went through. But if I miss, the guys on the team are like, that’s okay, (the sprints) are only helping us, anyway.”

Luckily for MCC, Seymour is just as accurate in games as he is in practice, particularly when it comes to extra points.

Last season he converted an amazing 70 of 72 extra points, which is extraordinary for a high school kicker.

This season has been no different for Seymour. Currently he is 19 of 20 on extra points and the one missed was due to a bad snap.

On kickoffs his foot has been impressive. Against Muskegon Heights during Week 2, Seymour had seven touchbacks. All in the first half.

High school games are frequently decided by a point or two, due to missed PATs.  Teams that don’t have reliable kickers are often forced to go for two-point conversions, which are risky at best.

Seymour kicks off during last season's state championship game against Beal City. Photo/Tim Reilly

Seymour kicks off during last season’s state championship game against Beal City. Photo/Tim Reilly

Czerwon is grateful to have a kicker he can count on for those crucial extra points. So much so, in fact, that he keeps Seymour reserved for the kicking role, with no other responsibilities.

“I kind of baby the kicker and the backup quarterback,” said Czerwon, whose team is the defending Division 8 state champion and has started this season 3-0 following last week’s victory over Ludington. “Griff could contribute in other ways to the team, but I definitely don’t want him to turn an ankle.

“Extra points are far from automatic in high school. You score and the other team scores, but you miss an extra point and ask yourself ‘why are we losing?’ That consistency, to know you’re going to get seven points after a touchdown, is a great feeling for a coach.”

Muskegon Catholic scores a lot of touchdowns, so field goals tend to be less of a concern for Seymour. But he can hit from distance when he has to.

In the first game this season, against Columbus Bishop Hartley, a top team from Ohio, Seymour hit a 38-yarder that helped seal a 24-14 victory for MCC. That was one yard short of his career long of 39 yards.

“We made our field goal, they missed theirs, and that was a big difference in the game,” Czerwon said. “Griff’s also been working on his leg strength for touchbacks (on kickoffs). In Ohio I think he had two touchbacks. Any time a kicker can put it deep and help keep the other team inside their 20, it’s good for the defense.”

Surprisingly, kicking has not been a long-term endeavor for Seymour. He was not outside kicking footballs off tees at the age of seven or eight.

In fact, he stopped playing little league football around the age of eight, and didn’t return to the sport until his freshman year of high school. And he wasn’t his team’s first option as kicker on the MCC junior varsity squad.

“(Current MCC quarterback) Nick Holt was our kicker our freshman year, then he got called up to varsity midway through the season, and we suddenly needed a new kicker,” said Seymour, who played defensive back as a freshman. “The coach asked if anyone could kick. I raised my hand and said I would try.”

Seymour got the kicking job, but he took a while to develop.

“I was pretty small back then and didn’t have a lot of leg power,” Seymour said. “I didn’t have the technique and form down. There were a few kicks I shanked, and a lot of my kicks just didn’t have the distance. Extra points were also a struggle.

“After that season I started working on my kicking. There’s a soccer field by our house, so I borrowed a tee and some balls and went out with my brother (Connor Seymour)  and practiced a lot. He kicked his senior year (at Catholic) and he helped me a lot with technique and form.

“Since then I’ve constantly been working on kicking. I’ve also been doing some lifting and working out to build up my leg strength, so I can kick farther.”

Seymour admits he was nervous in his first year of kicking, with all eyes on him. But his accuracy has helped him develop confidence, to the point where he can go out of the field, in front of several thousand fans, and focus on what he has to do.

“Sometimes when I’m standing on the sidelines, waiting for them to decide whether to kick for go for it, I do get some butterflies,” Seymour said. “But when I get out on the field they disappear. My holder, Zach Houston, looks up at me and waits for me to give a head nod, then I take a deep breath and relax my whole body and it takes the pressure off.”

Seymour has picked up where he left off last year. He had a huge night kicking 10 extra points in MCC’s blowout victory over Muskegon Heights.

“Last year I really thought he was the strongest all-state candidate on an outstanding team,” Czerwon said. “He didn’t make it, and he wasn’t even all-area, because Montague had an outstanding kicker. But I really think he’s a very strong candidate to be all-state this year.”