November 29, 2017 11:21:27 AM
STARKVILLE -- The final six weeks of the regular season were out of character for Garin Boniol.
In that stretch, Starkville High School's sophomore kicker missed four of five field goal attempts and two extra points. Starkville coach Chris Jones asked Boniol what was wrong and received an answer he didn't believe.
Boniol pointed out that most of Starkville's practice time on field goals took placing facing the south end zone. Boniol wanted more work in both directions and from more spots on the field. Jones obliged Boniol for one practice before Starkville's final regular-season game.
Boniol has made three field goals since then.
Boniol's recent success comes as Starkville (13-2) prepares to take on Pearl (15-0) at 7 p.m. Friday for the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A championship at Ole Miss' Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford.
"He's the hardest working kicker I've ever seen," Jones said. "He works as hard as the NFL kickers I've seen. We always joke as coaches that he's training for the NFL. A lot of these kids train for college. He doesn't use a tee a lot of the time.
"He's training for the NFL, whether a lot of people see that or not."
Boniol plans out when he kicks and how many balls he kicks in different situations. When he's not doing that, he's doing abdominal workouts to boost his stability and fitness or working through a balance routine with a resistance band.
He stuck with that plan through his struggles.
That work ethic helped Boniol earn the opportunity to kick. Jones left the spring thinking another kicker was ahead of Boniol, but his improvement in the summer changed that.
"When he came back in August, he had a stronger leg," Jones said. "We worked out in the weight room, he didn't shy away from it. He ran all the sprints. I would come back up here at 4 or 5 (in the afternoon in the summer) and he's out here kicking. Sometimes his dad would be out here working with him."
Garin's father, Chris, is a former NFL kicker and current special teams quality control assistant for Mississippi State. The Dispatch asked MSU to speak with Chris earlier in the fall about Garin, but Chris declined.
At Starkville High, Garin Boniol is left at peace to work his routine while his teammates practice.
"I just want to practice all over the field. Getting every situation in practice, it can definitely help in a game," Garin Boniol said. "You're just getting used to the different areas of the field. You're looking up at the posts and seeing different parts of the field so you're used to it for a game situation."
Boniol has added more kicks to the field goal portion of practices. He said they would usually kick from the center of the field or the right or left hash marks. He wanted to kick in between those spots because he knows the ball won't always end up in one of those three spots.
Boniol's preparation helped him keep it together in what he called "a slump like everybody else gets into" in the second half of the regular season. All signs of that are now gone.
"It was a big break," Boniol said. "I can get my mind in a more positive manner.
"I'm not stopping because I made two (in the fourth quarter of a 27-24 victory against Madison Central on Friday night)."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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