Lamar kicker Ball regains his form

Published 3:30 pm Saturday, August 27, 2016

BEAUMONT — The final seconds of a close football game is usually the favorite time of a placekicker. It’s his opportunity to win.

For Alex Ball, it was his chance to save Lamar’s homecoming from being spoiled.

“It’s pressure. It’s pressure as always,” the psychology major said. “It just so happened it’s the game-winning field goal. Everything’s playing in my mind, the rain, the wind. Am I warmed up? Am I confident in my abilities?”

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His 23-yard field goal attempt went right into the wind on a drizzly Saturday night in November and pushed wide right. Nicholls State won 30-28.

Ball was 0 for 2 that game after going into the homecoming contest 10 for 11. He also missed from 46 yards out at the end of the first half.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t happen for me,” Ball said. “It has happened for me. In this case, it didn’t.”

Yes, it has happened for Ball. In 2013, his redshirt sophomore year, the Californian booted a 41-yard game winner against Stephen F. Austin as time expired. He was 7 for that season, but did not kick a field goal the next year because of injuries.

Statistics show that Ball is almost automatic, 17 for 20 for his career and 74 for 74 on extra points. After his costly miss against Nicholls State, players rallied around him.

“Everything was looking up,” Ball said. “Everyone had confidence in me to go out there and it’s just nice when everybody rallies around you.”

Ball and other Lamar kickers struggled in the team’s first preseason camp scrimmage this month, combining for a 3-for-6 stretch. But he beautifully rebounded last Sunday, converting attempts from 44, 26, 21, 44 and 22 yards without a miss.

“It’s just a matter of going through the progressions and making sure we get everything and all the steps right,” Ball said. “The big thing is having coaches confident in your ability so when they put you there, they know you have the ability to do it. The main thing is going through your stuff to make sure you put it through.”

Ball will be a key player in the Cardinals’ special teams, although sophomore return specialist Rodney Randle is the guy drawing all the accolades. The Ozen graduate was named second-team All-Southland Conference as a kick returner and was selected as a first-teamer for this preseason.

Randle returned 26 kicks for 635 yards and a touchdown, his 24.4 yard-per-return average ranking second in the Southland.

“I’m way more in shape, physically,” said Randle, who’s also a cornerback. “I put on some weight, and I most definitely got faster.”

But the Cardinals are looking for Ball to automatically light up the scoreboard in his final season. He has senior Juan Carranco, who should handle punting duties, and junior Josh Davis pushing him in camp.

“For the last couple of years, we’ve always had two or three kickers or punters,” Ball said. “We’ve always had a good collection of guys who work hard and want to be out there and push each other to compete.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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