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Southern Section Football Playoffs : DIVISION III : Hatcher Gets a Leg Up on Nevin in Record Duel

Times Staff Writer

One has already established an Orange County high school record; the other has set his sights on a mark that was set 14 years ago.

Phil Nevin, El Dorado kicker, is the undisputed distance champion. He kicked a 57-yard field goal 2 weeks ago against Esperanza to break Pat Blottiaux’s county mark of 56 yards established last season.

Last week, Nevin was only a foot short on a 61-yard attempt against Burbank in the opening round of the Southern Section Division III playoffs. Nevin was only a couple of yards short on 67-yard free kick attempt in El Dorado’s season opener against La Quinta.

Tim Hatcher, El Modena kicker, has a leg up on Nevin. Hatcher tied a Southern Section record by kicking five field goals against Canyon 6 weeks ago and is nearing Art Sorce’s county and Southern Section record of 16 field goals established at Newport Harbor in 1974.

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Hatcher has kicked 14 field goals this season, missing only on attempts of 48 and 52 yards. Hatcher’s forte is consistency. He has made 21 of 24 attempts in 2 seasons.

Both players’ teams will be in tonight’s quarterfinals of the Division III playoffs.

Nevin and El Dorado will play top-seeded Mission Viejo at Valencia High School. Hatcher and El Modena will play host to third-seeded Dominguez.

Nevin, a senior, is a self-taught kicker. He gave an early indication of his kicking prowess by winning the West Coast regional Punt, Pass and Kick competition at halftime of a Ram game and missed qualifying for the national championship by a yard.

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He attended former National Football League kicking star Ben Agajanian’s kicking camp in Long Beach the past 2 summers where he said he learned the most important aspect of kicking is patience.

“You can’t rush your steps,” he said. “We worked on consistency . . . continually doing the same thing over and over again.”

The summer sessions paid off this season. Nevin has missed kicking the ball into the end zone on kickoffs only three times. He has consistently sent his kicks soaring over the snack bar at Valencia’s Bradford Stadium on point-after attempts.

He angered the neighbors across the street at Burroughs High in Burbank by booming his kicks into parked cars across the street from the stadium.

Nevin also showed against Burbank that he knows how to throw a football, connecting with Robert Cortez for a 55-yard pass reception on the first play of the game. Of course, Nevin should know how to throw. He’s one of the county’s top infielders.

USC, Cal State Fullerton, Brigham Young, Fresno State and Oklahoma State are among the major colleges recruiting Nevin. He plans to kick and play baseball in college.

“I won’t go to a college if I can’t play both sports,” he said. “Kicking is going to get me into college, but hopefully baseball will be my career. My dream has always been to play major league baseball.”

Hatcher, with seven field goals measuring 40 yards or longer this season, would love to hear from anybody. Despite his success, Hatcher has yet to be contacted by a major college.

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“Apparently, I’m not doing what the scouts and coaches want to see,” he said. “I don’t understand it. I feel anytime the ball is inside the 50, I should make it. The best part of my game is consistency.”

Hatcher has also spent time working with Agajanian, correcting the follow-through on his 3-step technique.

Nevin practices kicking only on Tuesdays; Hatcher kicks 20 balls up to 40 yards on Mondays and Tuesdays and then has a long workout on Wednesday. Nevin is a backup quarterback at El Dorado; Hatcher concentrates solely on kicking.

“At practice, I’m usually off by myself, so I don’t feel much like part of the team,” Hatcher said. “But on game night, I feel like I’m part of the team and contribute to the team.”

El Modena has won 6 of its last 7 games, and Hatcher has played a key role by kicking 13 field goals in the 6 victories. In contrast, he had only 1 field goal as El Modena opened the season with 4 consecutive losses.

Hatcher admitted he sometimes secretly roots for his teammates to stall in opposing territory so he’ll get an opportunity to kick.

“I’d never want us to lose, but sometimes, yeah, I do root for the team to bog down so that I’ll get a chance to kick,” he said. “Last week, after I kicked my first field goal, I wanted one more shot so I could break the school record.”

Hatcher got his opportunity late in the first half, kicking a 27-yard field goal to break Keith Vanderhoff’s school mark of 13 set in 1983. Tonight, he’ll take aim at Sorce’s county and Southern Section mark of 16 in a season.

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