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FIELDER’S CHOICES: Some words of praise for punters

I’ve always been fascinated by punters.

It’s probably because my dad used to watch grainy video of former UNLV All-American Joe Kristosik booting the ball on an endless loop.

My dad was a lifelong Rebels fan who used to film the games from his seat, but the 1998 UNLV team finally broke his spirit. Years later, he would sit on the couch staring at those videos and muttering under his breath about the hapless 1998 Rebels, who finished 0-11.

But I would marvel at Kristosik’s powerful leg and wonder how it stayed attached as he punted 76 times that season, including 13 against Brigham Young.

So I’ve always loved punters, and my favorite punt of the season was the now-infamous “butt punt” by Centennial’s Michael Neubeck, who drilled a kick into the rear of one of his personal protectors against Palo Verde.

Thankfully that was a TV game, and I’ve cued up the DVR countless times to watch that one.

I found a new favorite last week. Silverado’s Devion Clayton managed to return his own punt for the winning touchdown in a 7-0 victory over Canyon Springs.

Clayton’s boot didn’t make it back to the line of scrimmage, and he fielded it on the bounce and raced 41 yards for a TD. Something tells me Silverado coach Randall Cunningham, who owns UNLV’s career punting average mark at 45.6 yards, didn’t draw it up that way.

Well, on to the picks.

Centennial at Bishop Gorman — Here are a couple numbers from Gorman’s 5-0 run against Nevada schools. The Gaels are averaging an offensive touchdown every 3.7 plays, and a ridiculous 15.7 yards per rush.

Biaggio Ali Walsh has gotten just 29 carries in that time, but has run for 774 yards and 11 TDs, averaging an even more ridiculous 26.7 yards per carry.

I’d really like to believe that the Bulldogs can give the mighty Gaels a run for their money, but those numbers tell me Centennial has no shot. … Gorman by 35.

Desert Oasis at Arbor View — Kudos to the Diamondbacks for earning the school’s first football playoff victory last week, drubbing one-time power Palo Verde 34-12.

Ty’shun McClinton has been the key for Desert Oasis this season, averaging 168.4 rushing yards in the team’s seven wins and 54.3 in the losses.

He might need 200 yards for the Diamondbacks to pull the upset in this one. … Arbor View by 21.

Silverado at Foothill — I can’t wait to see how Foothill lines up the first time Clayton drops back to punt. Where exactly do you send that return man?

Cunningham was an offensive force in college and the NFL, but his team’s calling card has been on defense this season. The Skyhawks have allowed a total of 28 points in their six wins, including three shutouts.

But Foothill scored 45 in the regular-season meeting, so Silverado will have to find a way to corral Justice Jackson. … Foothill by 6.

Elko at Moapa Valley — Moapa Valley pulled the upset last week, eliminating Desert Pines from the Division I-A state playoffs with a 13-12 come-from-behind win.

Moapa Valley coach Brent Lewis said after the game that his team had never lost a postseason game on that field, and I don’t see that streak ending this week. Here’s guessing R.J. Hubert finds the end zone somehow, and the Pirates prevail. … Moapa Valley by 12.

Chaparral at Churchill County — I sure didn’t have the Cowboys playing in the state semifinals. Not at the start of the regular season. Not at the end of the regular season. Not before last week’s game.

Boy, was I wrong. Chaparral coach Paul Nihipali showed plenty of guts, going for 2 in the final minute of a 21-20 win over Faith Lutheran last week.

Will guts be enough against the Greenwave? Probably not. Churchill County has allowed only 56 points during its 10-game win streak. … Churchill County by 6.

Las Vegas at Green Valley — Sure seems like I’ve seen this matchup before. Oh, wait. I have.

The Gators earned a 38-34 road win against Las Vegas on Sept. 4, and are coming off a dominating performance against Foothill last week. Austin Warhop rushed for 208 yards in the first meeting, and got back on the field for Green Valley last week. The Gators grind out another win. … Green Valley by 6.

Coronado at Liberty — Coronado always seems to be fired up for meetings with Liberty, and the Cougars pulled within 28-18 in the second half when the teams met in the regular season.

But that was as close as it got, and I think the Patriots are on a mission. … Liberty by 18.

Canyon Springs at Basic — These teams matched up in the first round of the Sunrise Region playoffs last season as well, but it was Canyon Springs that came in with a No. 1 seed and tripped against the fourth-seeded Wolves.

The seeds are reversed this season, but I don’t see an upset this time. I’m pretty sure Aeneas McAllister and company remember what a motivated No. 4 seed can do. … Basic by 20.

Last week: 5-3, 3-5 (with points)

Season: 68-23, 58-29-1 (with points)

Contact Fielder at Fielder@nevadapreps.com. Follow him: @FielderNVP.

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