JACKSONVILLE ó Gavin Hallford was in the cafeteria earlier this week, having
a nice lunch with his girlfriend when she dropped the news on him.
Boy, was he surprised.
Somewhere between the salad and dessert, she told the Jacksonville State
junior kicker he was leading the country in field goals. You couldíve knocked
him over with a feather.
Going into tonightís game with Tennessee-Martin, Hallford leads the
Championship Subdivision with a school-record 14 field goals and 2.8-per-game
The former tuba player has more makes and attempts this season than any
kicker on any college level in America ó the NCAAís four football-playing
divisions, NAIA, or junior college. Only UABís Swayze Waters has a better
per-game average in Division I football, just because heís played one fewer
ďIt feels good to be ranked nationally No. 1,Ē Hallford said. ďItís real cool
to be ranked No. 1 at any point in the year.
ďTake a picture, write it down. If it comes down at the end of the season, at
least I had it for a little while. Iíd like to stay there for the rest of the
season, but just to be there at one point says a lot to me.Ē
What it says loudest is that the work he did in the off-season is paying off.
While kickers typically are off in their own little world, Hallford made his
world the weight room. He lifted with whoever needed a partner, regardless if it
were offensive lineman Keith Gergel or receiver James Wilkerson, then spent as
much time afterward working on his flexibility.
As a result, his range and accuracy both went up dramatically. He was only
13-of-22 on his field goals last year, and didnít hit any beyond 40 yards
(0-for-7). This year, heís 14-of-19 ó hitting eight in a row at one point ó and
has made three from beyond 40, including a career-best 45-yarder into the wind
against Eastern Kentucky.
And itís not just his field goals. Heís averaging nearly 62 yards on his
kickoffs and has five touchbacks ó the most in the league.
With at least six games left this year, heís only eight field goals short of
the OVCís single-season record, set by Murrayís Rob Hart in 1996. He needs only
one more to tie Slade Stinnettís all-time JSU mark (36) and, with another season
after this, he needs 17 to tie the OVC all-time mark.
ďI think itís attainable,Ē he said. ďIf it isnít, it isnít. If we score more
touchdowns, itís not going to break my heart. OVC record or not, winning games
is all I really worry about. If I have to kick four field goals, I have to kick
four field goals. If I kick nothing but extra points, thatís fine too. I donít
really look to make records, set records; if they happen, they happen. I didnít
even know any of these records were set until after the fact.Ē
But his march toward the record books is somewhat bittersweet. As much as
itís a testament to the work Hallford did in the offseason, itís also an
indictment on the offenseís inability to finish off drives with touchdowns.
The Gamecocks have gotten to the red zone 27 times this year, but have scored
only five touchdowns ó all in the past three games. Hallfordís leg has salvaged
the drives with field goals 12 (of 14) times.
Three isnít as good as seven, but itís a heck of a lot better than zero.
ďNo matter how you lay it out there, youíre going to have a field goal that
separates you at least two times a year,Ē JSU coach Jack Crowe said. ďThatís
good, because (Hallford) has shown he ... has range and can make those kicks,
and I think he can do it in the clutch, but you donít want to be kicking from
the 20-yard line because you canít convert and get in the end zone.
ďHeís good enough to do this, letís save him for the opportunity when we have
to have it at the end of a game or the end of a half. Thatís where youíd like to
pull this out, not as a result of you canít get a touchdown in the red zone.Ē
If the Gamecocks do start finding their way home once they get inside the 20
ó and Crowe is convinced they will ó Hallfordís stay at the top of the rankings
might be short-lived.
But he wouldnít mind trotting out for more extra points, and not because itís
a shorter kick. He kicked 50 extra points as a freshman in 2004, when he
finished third in the OVC in scoring, first among kickers.
ďIf we got in the end zone more I could care less about the national
ranking,Ē he said. ďThatís not what Iím all about. Iím all about winning, and if
we win games and I donít kick four field goals in a game, that doesnít break my
heart at all. Itís better for the team and Iím not all about personal stats.
ďIt does feel great, but if Iíve kicked more extra points than field goals, I
feel good about it. The rest of the team is scoring touchdowns and putting
points on the board and weíre winning football games, which is what really Iím
looking for. I pay more attention to the team record than I do my own.Ē
Jax State vs. Tenn.-Martin
Today, 6 p.m., CSS, FM 91.9, FM 92.7
About Al Muskewitz
Al Muskewitz covers golf and Jacksonville State
University sports teams for The Star.
See story at The Anniston Star's website: www.annistonstar.com