Since taking over App State’s starting kicker position late in the Coastal Carolina game on Oct. 21, redshirt freshman Chandler Staton has already had a strong season.
For starters, he hasn’t missed a kick of any kind. He has made all six field goal attempts and all 27 extra point attempts, accounting for 45 points in total. Staton has nailed three field goals from 40 yards or deeper, including a 53-yarder at home against rival Georgia Southern as the first half ended. It gave the Mountaineers a 7-point advantage and some important momentum that helped allow them to come out of the locker room and put the game away in the second half. It was good for the sixth longest field goal in Appalachian’s history and is the longest since 2007.
“I’m real happy with everything he has done. He’s stepped in and done a great job and has played well,” special teams coach Stu Holt said.
After redshirt sophomore Michael Rubino missed three of his four field goals in the Coastal Carolina game, and with the Mountaineers in control, the coaching staff decided to give Staton a shot at an extra point late in the game.
“My nerves weren’t what I expected them to be. I came in, I was really excited, but as soon as I got on the field I was good to go,” Staton said. “Nerves never really got to me before [in high school], and I was kind of halfway expecting them to get to me a little bit in my first college game, but they never phased me. It just went straight back to the high school feel.”
Staton split the uprights on the first kick of his college career and was named the starter the next week at UMass.
Although the Mountaineers would ultimately drop that game against the Minutemen in a double-overtime contest, Staton helped keep App State in the game. He hit both a 40-yarder and a key 30-yarder late in the fourth quarter that gave App State the lead before UMass was able to march down the field and hit a game-tying field goal to send the game to overtime.
In a pivotal game to keep App State’s Sun Belt championship hopes alive at Georgia State, Staton came through again near the end of the first half; he knocked a 42-yarder home that gave his team a 10-7 lead that they took into halftime. When the Mountaineers got the ball back in the third quarter, a quick touchdown gave them a two possession lead and put them in the driver’s seat for the rest of the game.
The kicking game is a vital part to any football team’s success, yet the fans and media often take field goals and extra points for granted. To kick a football that hard and far, with that little time, as 11 defensive players are breathing down your neck, is more difficult than a lot of people assume. Although there are many different aspects that make up a game and lead to either a win or a loss, having a reliable kicker has proven to be a critical part of football success time and time again. And the Mountaineers appear to have found that guy in Staton.
“It’s very important. The kicking game matters particularly in close games, as we’ve seen in both ways. We’ve seen it help us win games and unfortunately contribute to us coming out on the short end of the stick at times. The kicker position is one that we value, there’s no doubt,” Holt said. “Any time we get across the 50 yard line, we’re thinking we’ll have a chance to at least get three if we can move the ball down into field goal range, and we certainly have confidence in Chandler being able to get the job done.”
Although Staton’s first kick of his college career came this year, it is his second year in the program. He attributes his redshirt season last year as a key component to his success this year.
“I learned a lot last year. I think that really just coming in and understanding how the program works, lifts, the schedule. Just getting accustomed to everything played a big role for me,” Staton said.
Staton’s roommate and best friend sophomore Rylee Critcher is a backup punter for the Mountaineers and is also the holder for field goals and extra points.
“I think our chemistry is probably the biggest part of my success honestly,” Staton said. “In high school I had a good two years, but it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been, I don’t think, because I didn’t have a good holder and we weren’t really close. I’m good friends with Rylee, and it’s a lot different. He is my roommate, so he wants my success just as much as I do and it really works out.”
Critcher, who is the younger brother of former App State punter Bentlee Critcher, also realizes how important his relationship is to Staton on field success.
“We definitely have a lot of chemistry. We’ve lived together since last fall, so we’re always together. We’re always here,” Rylee Critcher said. “We’re always throwing the ball around or working after or before practice. We’ve been working out a lot even since last year when my brother was here holding for Mike [Rubino].”
Staton has had a great deal of success and with that comes popularity. Through it all, Staton has found a way to stay level-headed and knows there is still work ahead of him.
“I just go back to the basics: how I was raised. It’s always big to have your name out there and for people to know you, but you want them to know you for the right things,” Staton said. “I never let myself get big-headed because I know it could all come crashing down soon, you never know.”
Staton seems to have it all figured it out when it comes to kicking, but that is not the only thing he’s good at.
“He’s a really good kicker and a really good roommate, so I enjoy him as my roommate, and I enjoy seeing him out on the field,” Critcher said.
Story By: Silas Albright, Sports Reporter
Photo By: Lindsay Vaughn, Senior Photographer