BAKER — It's fair to say that Baker School senior football player Malcolm Griffith might be an accidental kicker.
As a freshman, Griffith was a wide receiver and defensive back, who dabbled in kicking for Baker's junior varsity until a freak injury changed the course of his football career.
"I was going into the locker room one day and I went to open the door and somebody kicked it and I broke my hand," he said. "I was out for the season at wide receiver and cornerback that year, but the trainer called him ... I said I could be the kicker and he agreed, as long as I had no contact.
"I started kicking, the last game (of his freshman year), the Jay game, and I made my extra point ... I've been kicking since then."
Griffith's move to kicker might have been the result of an accident, but his success has been anything but an accident.
Griffithhas worked hard at his trade since his freshman year, attending kicking camps to hone his skills during the summer, and kicking countless footballs during practice as his teammates on offense and defense work on game plans.
In Baker's 24-20 win over Northview on Nov. 1, which clinched the District 1-1A title for the Gators, Griffith's six points proved to be the difference. Griffith scored Baker's first points on a 26-yard field goal. He was also a perfect 3-for-3 on extra points.
Baker Coach Matt Brunson said Griffith's field goal gave the Gators a big boost early in the Northview game.
"A year ago, they (Northview) held us scoreless," Brunson said. "And he (scored) there on the first drive after the turnover, and it really picked the team up.
"I've never been prouder than when he hit that first field goal. He's been very solid on extra points. He's done everything we've asked him to do in the kick off game.
The calm Griffith felt was a far cry from that first game, when former Baker coach Bob Kellogg almost didn't let him have a third try after missing his two previous extra points.
"I missed the first extra point; and, the second one, they came in and hit me a little ... then I really got nervous and scared," Griffith said. "But the third time, I made it and that was just the best moment of my life.
Griffith's teammates constantly give him a hard time about being kicker.
"I hear it all the time that I'm not a football player," he said, with a smile. "They mess with me and say, 'Kicker's not a football player,' and call me, 'Kicker,' and stuff like that, but they are just messing with me."
Griffithhad a hard time making a kick from the 5-yard line as a freshman. Now he feels comfortable from the 30 or 35, which, adding the 10 yards for the end zone, would be a 40 or 45-yard kick.
Griffithmight very well play a big role in more games this season if the Gators are to make a long run into the playoffs.
If that time comes, Griffith will answer the call, Brunson said.
"I've told Malcolm all along we are going to win a game by a kick before it's over with," Brunson said. "And that moment I'll have no hesitation sending him out there."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.