Gateway: Sports

Just a kicker? Not Peninsula’s Ben Stanford

Peninsula’s Ben Stanford made a crucial field goal in the third quarter against Mountain View in Vancouver.
Peninsula’s Ben Stanford made a crucial field goal in the third quarter against Mountain View in Vancouver. Twitter

For all the players who stepped up for the Seahawks in their 10-7 Class 3A state playoff win over Mountain View in Vancouver on Saturday — and there were plenty of them on both sides of the ball — one player in particular has been an unsung hero for the Seahawks this year.

It’s a position that often isn’t recognized unless things go horribly wrong. But at the high school level, having a consistent field goal kicker with a good leg is far from a sure thing.

Peninsula’s got one in senior Ben Stanford. On the year, Stanford is 34-for-36 on point after attempts and is 6-for-7 on field goals. He made a 48-yarder in Peninsula’s home playoff win over Snohomish. And last week against Mountain View, with neither offense able to score many points, he hit a 30-yarder in the third quarter.

Peninsula won that game by three points. Feel free to do the math.

“He’s been phenomenal,” Peninsula coach Ross Filkins said. “He’s really steady back there. He’s a tremendous asset. We know we have an opportunity once we get inside the 30.”

When Stanford came to Filkins as a freshman, he only played kicker. Since he played club soccer year-round, his parents didn’t want football injuries to complicate things in soccer. Stanford was bummed, but he understood.

So he told Filkins that he was “just a kicker.” Filkins found that funny.

“I always had to tell him, ‘You’re not just a kicker, as if to demean the kicking position, and oh, by the way, you’re actually a really good athlete,’” Filkins said.

Perhaps the lack of tackling led Stanford to devalue himself. But in soccer players, Filkins always see positives.

“We’ve always coveted soccer players,” Filkins said. “They tend to transfer over really well to football, particularly as defensive backs. They tend to have good footwork and really good vision. They’re less prone to tunnel vision, they see the whole field a lot better. And most importantly, they know how to cover — or mark — an opponent.”

So when Stanford gave up the time commitment of playing club soccer to focus on his schoolwork, the college application process, having time for a social life and playing football, he was finally allowed to play other positions. While there was a bit of a learning curve, and Stanford wasn’t a starter at cornerback, a recent injury to a teammate has thrust Stanford into a starting role.

“I think I’ve been doing pretty well, considering there were three years where I didn’t play any regular positions,” Stanford said.

Filkins said Stanford has played well since his number was called.

“He’s done a great job,” he said. “The dependability and trust his teammates have in him, it transfers over to defensive back.”

But perhaps Stanford’s biggest value to the team is still what he brings to the table as a kicker. Stanford deflected credit to his teammates.

“The coaches and my field goal unit have been great,” Stanford said. “All the blocking has been great. Our snapper and holder are really consistent.”

All of that may be true, but Stanford is still the one knocking the footballs through the uprights.

“We practice it every day,” Stanford said. “It’s nice to know that it pays off. We work a lot on simple PAT’s. Those should be easy, simple points. We take a lot of pride in that.”

Picture this: Peninsula is down by 2 to Rainier Beach this Friday night in the 3A state quarterfinals at Roy Anderson Field, with three seconds to go in the game. Stanford comes on to kick the game-winning field goal. What’s he feeling?

“I’m thinking exactly what’s going on in the situation: This is my chance to send my team through the quarterfinals. This is my chance to prove myself,” Stanford said. “And of course, I would try to calm myself down at the same time.”

Maybe he would make it. It’s possible he’d miss it. But for Filkins, he’ll take his chances with Stanford every time.

“I’d have 100-percent confidence,” Filkins said. “He’s our guy and he’s earned it.”