A-K Valley high school football notebook: Gildea newest member of Plum’s ‘Kicker Crew’

Thursday, September 7, 2017 | 10:48 PM

In the vein of Penn State's “Linebacker U,” Plum football has developed something of a “Kicker Crew.”

Senior Jackson Gildea became just the most recent Mustangs kicker to gain notoriety with his 38-yard game-winning field goal in Plum's 9-6 Week 1 victory over Kiski Area.

“I knew right away,” Gildea said. “I just felt it. It was solid contact, a great hold by Hunter Fields, a great snap by Jake George, and it was just perfect.

The kicking success dates back to Pat McAfee, a 2005 Plum graduate who later starred at West Virginia and became a Pro Bowl punter with the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL. Other notable kickers include Dylan Kondis, who played at Mercyhurst, and Jake Chapla, a sophomore at Slippery Rock and The Rock's No. 1 kicker.

Gildea began placekicking as a sophomore under the tutelage of Chapla, crediting Chapla with teaching him “everything about kicking.” Gildea later attended the Hammer Kicking Academy, run by former University at Buffalo kicker Adam Tanalski.

Currently, Gildea, who hasn't yet received any scholarship offers, said his range is 51 yards with pads and 55 without. He's also the Plum punter.

The 38-yarder, the first game-winner of his career, had plenty of room to spare. McAfee, Chapla and Kondis all posted about the game-winner on Twitter.

“He accomplished one of the best feeling things you can achieve as a kicker by hitting that game-winner last week,” Chapla said Thursday. “Jackson has made so much progress since he has started kicking. His progress throughout this summer was his best steps forward yet. He put in the time necessary to be this successful, and it's already beginning to show.”

There already may be a next man up in Plum's kicking tradition. Freshman Josh Cummings handled punting responsibilities in the second half against Kiski Area as Gildea dealt with cramps, and the ninth-grader twice pinned the Cavaliers inside the 20-yard line, helping the Mustangs control field position in a tight game.

“He's going to be a good kicker, probably even better than me when I'm gone,” Gildea said.

Power of Bowser

Add another player to the list of female kickers in the Alle-Kiski Valley, as Highlands junior Jaci Bowser booted an extra point in the Golden Rams' 28-14 victory over Ambridge in Week 1.

Bowser joins Apollo-Ridge's Mayce Anthony and Burrell's Marena Glaister as female kickers on the scoresheet this season. All three play soccer as well.

Bowser also follows in the footsteps of Taylor Gunn, Highlands' starting kicker the past two seasons and currently a member of the Slippery Rock women's soccer team.

What a rush

Area running backs had a banner Week 1, with a half-dozen surpassing the century mark in yards.

Springdale fullback Scott Landis led the way, rushing for 209 yards and two scores in the Dynamos' 42-20 victory over Jefferson-Morgan. Teammate Josh Harmon added 101 yards and two scores.

Other local running backs to surpass 100 yards in Week 1 included Burrell's Logan Bitar (185 yards, TD), Highlands' Jermaine Jett (114 yards, TD), Valley's Deonte Ross (107 yards, TD) and Plum's Corey Thomas (107 yards).

No nights off

Freeport may not have had a game in Week 1 after scheduled opponent Vincentian folded its team, but some Yellowjackets couldn't stay away from Friday night football.

Senior Jake Sarver said about a dozen players attended the game between their Allegheny Conference rivals Seton LaSalle and Shady Side Academy. Freeport coach John Gaillot told the team that was the only game they could attend.

“They're two really good teams,” Sarver said. “I saw a lot of athleticism on both sides of the ball. We're really excited to play both of them.”

Freeport hosts Shady Side Academy on Sept. 22 and Seton LaSalle on Oct. 6.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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