August 26, 2014 3:24:40 PM
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School's Michael Godley quickly points to his favorite play of his team's 51-19 football victory against Noxubee County in Friday night's season opener.
Godley, a senior kicker, punter, and kickoff man, kicked a 49-yard field goal in the first quarter to give his team a 17-0 lead.
"It was the perfect snap and hold," Godley said. "The laces were out. As soon as the ball went in the air, my heart was racing. When the officials hold their hands up, it's the greatest feeling in the world. When you look at the sidelines and all your teammates are excited, it's thrilling."
Godley also hit a 33-yard field goal, had six touchbacks on nine kickoffs and a 32-yard average on two punts. For his efforts, Godley is The Dispatch's Prep Player of the Week.
"Our special teams are outstanding," Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell said. "We know how many games they can be a difference in. We feel really good there. To be a complete team, you have to do all things well. We feel like our special teams are close to automatic."
Godley also has been a standout striker and goalkeeper for the Starkville High boys soccer team. After playing in a youth league basketball in eighth grade, his coaches suggested he try kicking a field goal.
"When I came out for the eighth-grade team, the first thing I realized was you really sweat a lot when you play football," Godley said. "Just when I was getting into football as a sport, I broke my leg. Because of that I couldn't kick my freshman year."
"But I knew this was something I wanted to do, so I came back out for the team my sophomore year. That year, I basically punted and did a couple of kickoffs. From there, I picked up the long field goal duties and took over kickoffs full time my junior year. Kicking is something I totally fell in love with."
Fellow senior Michael Sullivan handles the extra-point duties and short field goal kicking for the Yellow Jackets. The duo works well together.
"They do a great job of pushing and motivating one another," Mitchell said. "We have total confidence in whatever situation we are placed in that we have a kicker who will respond to the challenge."
Starkville (1-0), which is No. 3 in The Clarion-Ledger's Super 10, will face top-ranked Oxford (1-0) in a non-region matchup Friday night in Oxford. Both teams are considered state championship contenders in Class 6A and Class 5A of the Mississippi High School Activities Association.
Last season, Oxford won 35-24 in Starkville. That game was the one that helped launch Godley's career as a kicker. As he was settling in to his role as full-time kickoff man, Godley responded with five kickoffs for touchbacks.
"It started out as something to do," Godley said. "However after that game (Oxford in 2013), I realized this was something I could do at the next level and that really got me excited. When the season ended, I finished eighth nationally (per Max Preps) and got some good publicity for it. That is really when a lot of college coaches started showing interest in me."
Godley's father, Randall, a former high school quarterback, saw the opportunity and helped his son take full advantage. Travis Godley, Michael's brother, has been another big influence on his younger brother's career, as has half-brother Max Miller, who Godley calls his "soccer mentor."
"My dad has been very supportive," Godley said. "He will call and say, 'LSU has a camp next week. Let's go.' He helped me get up with (former NFL kicker) Shane Andrews, who is with Elite Kicking. I went and worked with him at Kentucky and Ole Miss. We have done some other college showcase camps together. I have worked with several coaches trying to get pointers on how to improve hang time on kickoffs and become more consistent on field goals."
While Starkville may have strong special teams play, the squad is full of units ready to excel on a high level. Godley calls the talent level on the team "extremely high."
"(The season) is going to be a good one," Godley said. "I had a chance to kick on the 2012 (Class 5A) state championship team. I had no idea how good we were then because it was really my first year of varsity football. We dropped three of the first four games but won the rest of them to finish 12-3 and win the state championship.
"This year, there is no denying we are really good. You look around the locker room and you see that we have a lot of talent. The whole defensive line has Division I offers. (Quarterback) Brady (Davis) is going to (University of) Memphis. We have some young talent coming up to. It is exciting to be a part of.
"I have a whole lot of fun just being on the sidelines and watching my team play."
The fun intensifies when the ball goes through the uprights.
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Scott is sports copy editor and reporter