High School Sports

Providence’s Austin Kent kicking his way to memorable season

Providence High kicker Austin Kent (88) is a big weapon for the Panthers, thanks to a punting average of nearly 50 yards and three field goals of more than 50.
Providence High kicker Austin Kent (88) is a big weapon for the Panthers, thanks to a punting average of nearly 50 yards and three field goals of more than 50. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Providence High senior kicker Austin Kent has made three field goals of more than 50 yards this season. Each ranks among the eight longest kicks ever made by a kicker from Mecklenburg County .

His 55-yarder last week against Harding tied for the second-longest in county history and the fifth longest by any high school kicker in the United States this season.

“That’s the best daggone kicker I’ve ever seen in high school in person, hands down,” gushed Harding coach Sam Griner. “There are some good kickers in our conference. But, man, that kid can boom it. In warm-ups, he’s hitting from 60. Easy.”

This season, Kent – a 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior – has kicked off 33 times; 30 were for touchbacks. That takes pressure off Providence’s special teams, which rarely worries about any type of return, much less a long one. And Kent’s 46-yard punting average, fourth-highest in the U.S., includes a 70-yarder earlier this season.

“He’s changed some games for us, for sure,” Providence coach Brad Bowles said. “Especially punting, where he’s completely switched field position. At Olympic, he had a punt that was 50 yards-plus from the back of our end zone. And when we have the ball, we figure there’s a possibility for points, anytime we’re 55 yards (away, for a field goal) or closer.”

Kent, 18, credits his leg strength to personal kicking coach Dan Orner, who played at North Carolina and with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, and to weight training that started his sophomore year. Before Orner and weights, Kent said he was making kicks from about 40 yards but nowhere close to where he regularly kicks from now.

We thought he would knock the scoreboard down. That kid is a weapon. His leg is just electric. The way he drives the ball is effortless.

Ardrey Kell coach Joe Evans

“The development in the weight room really helped me gain strength,” Kent said. “And working with Dan Orner, he helped with my form. Now I know when we get within range, the coaches have faith in me. Even if I do miss, high school rules say the ball comes out to the 20 (yard line). So in a way, they use me for field position as well as a way to point puts on the board.”

In Providence’s first game, a 10-9 win at Summerville (S.C.), Providence attempted three field goals of at least 50 yards. For the season, Kent has made 7-of-16 attempts and is 15-of-16 in point-after-touchdown attempts. Most of his misses are from distances most high school coaches would never considerattempting.

“I trust him,” Bowles said. “He’s always long enough. Most of his misses are 45 yards or more. It’s just a huge weapon to know, hey we’re on the 35 and it’s fourth down, or we’re on the 40 and it’s fourth down, and we can kick it and give it a go. I’m extremely confident in his ability.”

Kent, also a swimmer on Providence’s state powerhouse team , said he’s yet to receive any scholarship offers for football. He took an unofficial visit to North Carolina last week and said the Tar Heels, Clemson, Furman and Virginia Tech are schools that have expressed interest. He visited Virginia Tech and Clemson earlier this season.

Area coaches said they believe Kent will soon begin receiving offers.

“He’s amazing,” Ardrey Kell coach Joe Evans said. “We had a 15-yard penalty on an extra point and when he kicked off (from midfield), we thought he would knock the scoreboard down. That kid is a weapon. His leg is just electric. The way he drives the ball is effortless.”

Wertz: 704-358-5133; @langstonwertzjr

Longest field goals in Mecklenburg County history

1. Paul Griggs, Charlotte Latin, 57 (2011), JD Dellinger, Charlotte Country Day (2014)

3. Brett Speakman, Charlotte Christian, 55 (1994), Austin Kent, Providence (2015)

5. Jeff Reed, East Mecklenburg, 54 (1996), Chris Hinkebein, Providence, 54 (2006)

7. Austin Kent, Providence, 53 (2015)

8. Chris Hinkebein, Providence, 52 (2005) , Wil Kamin, Charlotte Christian, 52 (2007) , Austin Kent, Providence, 52 (2015)

11. Wes Medeiros, Charlotte Chrisitan, 51 (2012).

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