August 24, 2018 11:17:57 AM
STARKVILLE -- Ben Guest doesn't use his bed or couches as launching pads.
The Starkville Academy cornerback also doesn't lay out at practice when the football team works on blocking kicks in its special teams periods.
That doesn't mean that Guest isn't able to have success, even if it means he has to use his head. Guest's motor enables him to be a difference-maker in a unit that coach Chase Nicholson takes pride in making sure is ultra prepared every week.
Starkville Academy attention to detail in special teams paid dividends last week, as Guest blocked two extra points to pave the way for a 21-20 victory against Lamar School in the season opener for both teams.
"I got the first one off my helmet," Guest said of the first two blocked kicks of his career. "The second one hit me right on the forearm. I really don't know how got there that fast. I just laid out and felt it hit my helmet and I went, 'Did I really get that with my helmet?' "
Guest will try to add to his total at 7 p.m. Friday when Starkville Academy plays host to French Camp Academy. The reigning Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class AAA State champions will look to extend their winning streak to 13 games in their 2018 home opener.
Guest said a move from a player in where he was taking a block to the outside position allowed him to be in position to block the kicks. Even though he might have been a little further away from the kicker's point of contact, he said his success relies on getting off the line of scrimmage as quickly as possible once the football is snapped. Guest said the Volunteers practice those situations in practice so he can develop a better "feel" for what he has to do get to the football.
"I know when I am slower off the ball," Guest said. "I knew I got a good break off the ball against Lamar."
Guest said he can see the holder catch the football if gets off the line of scrimmage quickly. That's when he knows he has a good chance to block a kick. He said he saw the Lamar School holder catch both snaps on the kicks he blocked.
Guest's ability to block kicks in practice led to his move to the outside and gave the Volunteers a key victory against the reigning Class AAAA, Division II champions.
"It takes a special person to be able to block a kick," Starkville Academy coach Chase Nicholson said. "Not just anybody can do that. We have seen plenty of people over the years who you would think could pull up or shy away from away from it or just can't seem to get it. He wants to. You can't teach want to. He wants to throw his body in front of the ball. He wants to block it every single time. He blocks them in practice all of the time. When he doesn't, he gets mad."
Nicholson said Guest even gets mad at practice when he doesn't block kicks because he understands the importance of special teams play. He said the Volunteers stress the details, as evidenced by the results Guest produced after moving one spot over on the block team.
Last season, Starkville Academy's Matt Miller blocked a punt that Guest recovered and turned into a touchdown that proved to be critical in a 21-14 overtime victory against Indianola Academy in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class AAA State title game at Jackson Academy.
Guest credits Starkville Academy defensive coordinator Brad Butler, who also is the team's trainer, for putting the player through grueling workouts in the spring and in the summer that help prepare them for the season. He said all of the success the Volunteers have in special teams goes back to that work.
Nicholson praised Guest for his individual effort in making two big plays that turned out to provide the winning margin.
"If he thinks he can get to it, he is going to do whatever it takes to get there," Nicholson said. "You saw that the other night. He has always been like that."
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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