As South Pointe chases a third straight title, kicker B.T. Potter has emerged as one of its secret weapons.
Potter has been the varsity kicker for the last two Stallion state championship teams. The work that he put in last summer has increased his effectiveness noticeably.
“You have to talk to him about what he has done in the offseason,” said South Pointe coach Strait Herron. “He’s worked with a guy from up in Charlotte and he’s gone to several camps and he’s just gotten better and better. We knew he had a strong leg, but his technique, he really needed to work on his technique and he’s got it down pat.”
The “guy from up in Charlotte” is Dan Orner. Potter’s hard work and Orner’s guidance have turned the South Pointe junior from a skinny ninth grader into a game-changer on special teams.
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“When I met him two years ago and we were working together,” said Orner, “I started introducing him to some drills that he needed to start doing on his kickoffs. He was pretty much hitting the ball to the five or to the goal line. Now he’s probably - for the 2018 class - probably the No. 1 kickoff guy in the country, consistently puts balls, you know, 8 to 15 yards out of the back of the end zone.”
He’s kicked like 68 touchbacks this year. That’s 68 times they’ve had to start at the 20. That would be the biggest thing for us.
South Pointe coach Strait Herron, on kicker B.T. Potter
Potter has hit 92 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks, a crucial stat as South Pointe (10-1) hosts Airport (5-6) in the second round of the 4A playoffs Friday. Airport Shrine Bowler Kerryon Richardson has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns this season. Limiting him would further decrease the Eagles’ chances of upsetting South Pointe.
Potter only weighs 165 pounds, but his leg speed makes up for it, according to Orner, who kicked at North Carolina and in the NFL. And though Potter sometimes lacks in technique, he can compensate with pure ball striking. When the former soccer player kicks a football it sounds like a fist hitting a punching bag.
“I’ve worked hard,” Potter said earlier this week. “I went to a lot of camps to improve my techniques.”
The camps helped Potter get better and exposed him to talented kickers and top coaching nationwide. He went to Chris Sailer’s Top Gun Camp and several other national and college gatherings. Orner said that Potter placed in the top two or three at each camp.
Like most high schools, South Pointe doesn’t have a coach specifically devoted to kicking. Herron commended Potter for getting the extra coaching and help he needs from outside sources, Orner especially.
“He’s just gotten better and better,” said Herron.
The improvement started for Potter around two years ago when he and Orner “hit it off” during a Saturday offseason workout.
“He is a real humble kid, real hard worker,” said Orner, who was a smaller kicker like his protege.
From a coaching standpoint it makes my job a lot easier when you have a kid who is willing to get better, who takes pride in his ability and also success he’s had.
Kicking coach Dan Orner, who works with South Pointe’s B.T. Potter
As Potter improved, he began kicking off the ground without the little tee box most prep kickers use.
“He is right in the mix to be a full scholarship guy with continued hard work.”
Potter has interest from Clemson, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Kentucky and Arizona State, and received his first scholarship offer from Mercer this fall. His performances in 2016 have justified the college attention. Potter set the school record after kicking a 49-yard field goal against Ridge View, and hit another 49-yarder in the Stallions’ lone loss this season up in Maryland. He’s 11 of 15 on field goals this season.
“You know offensively it gives you a chance to score points too, so it’s huge,” Herron said. “I it’s great having him because if you get in that situation where you have to have points, you don’t have to go as far to get them. So he’s a huge weapon.”
And maybe not so secret.
Colleges are noticing, as are South Pointe’s opponents. York’s Bobby Carroll called Potter one of the best kickers in the state earlier this season, pretty strong praise from a coach who worked with the best Stallions kicker in the school’s short history thus far, Landon Ard.
If Potter continues to pin opponents deep and blast 3-pointer through the uprights, the college opportunities will follow, and he may supplant Ard - who played four years at South Carolina - as the school’s best kicker.
“He’s passionate about it, he loves it and he wants to run on tunnel on Sundays in front of a 100,000 people,” said Orner. “I think for someone like him, you know, the hard work, works. And if you put in the work, it will definitely reap the benefits down the road.”