WILLIAMSTON – Williamston football coach Steve Kersten was in awe just moments after meeting Sy Barnett for the first time last winter.
Barnett, who transferred from Charlotte High School midway through his junior season, walked into Kersten’s class and showed him his high school football tape, hoping the longtime coach would be intrigued by what he saw.
“I saw he had 10 (kicks) in a row of the ball going five yards deep into the end zone,” Kersten said of watching Barnett’s tape. “I thought, ‘Wow. Our opponents are going to start at the 20-yard line every time?’ When you see it for real, that ball just booms.”
The senior kicker and wide receiver has been an all-purpose player for the Hornets through the first two weeks of the season. But it’s been his play on special teams that’s made him, arguably, Williamston’s most effective weapon.
In two games, Barnett has 10 touchbacks on 11 attempts. The only kick that was returned was in Thursday’s 35-28 loss to Holly, and the opposing player caught the ball at the 1-yard line and returned it to his own 17. In the same game, Barnett scored on a 65-yard kick-off return.
“We always talk about offense and defense, but we also talk about the hidden yards,” said Kersten, who cited Barnett’s character as his best quality. “And the hidden yards (he gives) as a kicker and the hidden yards as a kick-off returner puts our offense and our defense in a great situation.”
Barnett, who was a Class B honorable mention all-area kicker last year, has only attempted one field goal so far this season, and he missed it. It was a 55-yard attempt that hit the back of the end zone in the team’s season-opening victory over Eastern.
“He can kick a 50-yard field goal,” Kersten added. “No problem.”
Barnett said he started playing football in eighth grade, after more than 10 years of playing soccer. When he decided to play football for the first time, he knew he wanted to give kicking a try because “kicking was natural for me,” he said.
Barnett takes pride in what he’s able to bring to the table for Williamston in regards to special teams. And while that phase of football isn’t as publicized, or glamorous, he understands it can impact a game as much, if not more, than offense and defense. Even if it’s not as noticeable.
“Not every single team in the state is going to be able to travel 80 yards and score — they aren’t going to do it every time,” said Barnett, who said he’s hit a couple of 60-yard field goals in practice. “It helps our defense, and defense always leads to offense.”
Kersten believes Barnett has the ability to be an all-state wide receiver. He said Barnett was surrounded by three defenders most of the night in the loss to Holly — a game in which he recorded just one catch.
As the season progresses, Barnett is confident he will blossom into a more consistent offensive weapon, as well. Not only is he new to the Hornets’ football program, but the team has replaced seven starters from last year’s squad.
“We just have to keep on working,” he said. “Me and the quarterbacks just have to keep on working and getting the timing down. We have trust in each other, and once we have (timing) I think we’ll get going and be very good.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.