ALL-TIME TEAM: kickers

Tyrone’s All-Time team is on the move as time winds down. Steve Franco has just hooked up with Buddy Daughenbaugh on a 10-yard out to the sticks at the 45. Daughenbaugh, always the student of the game, gets out of bounds to stop the clock and preserve the timeout with 30 seconds remaining.

Now, Franco drops back and lofts a screen pass over the outstretched hands of the oncoming rush, and Mark Wyland takes it and rambles to the 20. Time winds down.

With 15 seconds left, the Eagles use their final timeout and bring on the field goal unit for what will be a game-winning attempt from 37 yards.

Who’s taking that kick?

Part of the driving philosophy behind this team was that it was a mythical team composed with the thought in mind of gathering the best players of all time.  And more than mere numbers would be essential for selection to the team because one had to also imagine that similar, rival all-time teams existed somewhere in the cosmos; so under those circumstances, it’s very possible an all-time game could come down to the toe of one man.

Several kickers stand out, and we’ll take this one in reverse, listing the all-time invitees and their resumes before selecting a starter.

Over the last 20 seasons, several names clearly resound more than others.  Sccott Gummo held the position for four seasons from 1997 through 2000.  In that time, he kicked a lot of extra-points – a school-record 182, in fact – which makes sense because those were some of Tyrone’s top scoring teams.  He had 52 extra-points his freshman season, and 62 in 1999 during the Golden Eagles’ PIAA championship run.

Gummo’s straight-on kicking style was something of a relic even in those days, but it was perfect for squaring up the 20-yard chip-shot after touchdowns.  However, while Gummo was deadly on points-after-touchdowns, he was also a serious threat when drives stalled and the Golden Eagles needed three.  Gummo ended his career with 10 field goals, which is tied for second all-time at Tyrone, and his eight field goals in 1999 remain a record.

gummo
Scott Gummo kicks at PAT against Bald Eagle Area in 2000.

Of those eight kicks, none were more important that the 45-yard boomer he connected on in the PIAA semifinals against Waynesburg.  That game may forever be remembered by the number the Golden Eagles’ defense did on Lanfer Simpson and the highly touted Raiders offense, and the dramatic four-down goal line stand before halftime that set the tone for the remainder of the game.  But the truth is Gummo’s 45-yard kick was an essential element in Tyrone’s 17-13 win because it forced the Raiders to think touchdown in the game’s final minutes rather than playing for a game-winning field goal.

The next great place-kicker to come along was Gummo’s brother Ben, who kicked for the Eagles in the early 2000s.

Like Scott, Ben kicked 10 field goals in his career, and he was deadly accurate on placements after scores, making 112 extra-points.  He shares with Scott the school record for PATs in a game with eight in a playoff win over Purchase Line in 2004.

Ben started for four seasons and had many highlights, like being named a first-team All-State linebacker in 2004, but he put his stamp on Tyrone’s program and became a part of its folklore with his performance in the 2004 District 6 championship game.  Playing on a badly injured left knee and cleared to play just one day before the epic contest against Bishop McCort, Gummo went 3-for-3 in field goal attempts in Tyrone’s 15-6 victory.

There is only one player ahead of the Gummo brothers on the list of field goal leaders, and that is Johnny Shaffer, who is already on the All-Time Team as a tight end.  He kicked 12 field goals from 2006 through 2008, and his 124 extra-points are second only to Scott Gummo.  He is also second to Scott in single-season extra-points, with 54 in 2006.

Like Scott, Johnny was a straight-on kicker, and he made some pressurized kicks, as well. In 2008, his two field goals were the difference in a 6-3 victory over Central Mountain in Lock Haven, advancing a winning streak that would reach 35 games.

Jared Templeton is the final big-time kicker of the recent era, a top-five kicker in both single-season and career extra-points.

From 2014-2017, Ethan Vipond grew into a reliable kicker both on placements and for field goals. He burst onto the scene as a freshman, kicking 51 extra-points during a 12-2 season that saw Tyrone win its tenth District 6 championship, which ranks fourth all time.

vipond2
Ethan Vipond kicks the game-winner against Huntingdon in 2015.

As a sophomore, Vipond nailed a game-winning 24-yard field goal in the District 6 2A playoffs against Huntingdon with 29 seconds left, catapulting the Eagles into the semifinals with a 24-21 victory. As a senior, he split the uprights from 33 yards out in overtime against Bellwood-Antis to give Tyrone a brief 10-7 advantage.

Vipond ranks third at Tyrone in career extra-points with 118 and ninth in career field goals with six.

Go back even further and you’ll find other great kickers whose names are still inscribed in the program’s record books. Dale Ellenberger holds the Tyrone record with a 46-yard field goal against Lewistown in 1981, the same game where he also split the uprights from 39 yards out.  Ellenberger was nicknamed “the Golden Toe,” a moniker which in itself holds enough legendary status to warrant consideration for this elite group.  Ellenberger ended his career with seven field goals, which ties him for fifth all-time, and his four three-point kicks in 1980 are seventh for a single season.

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Dale Ellenberger boots a 46-yard field goal at Lewistown in 1981.

John Supina kicked 10 field goals in a three-year career from 1986 through 1988, and his three field goals against Bellwood-Antis in 1987 stand as a record he shares with Ben Gummo to this day.  Supina finished 1987 with six field goals, which was a record for 12 years before Gummo broke it in 1999.

The father-son combination of Don and Luke Friday was a kicking dynasty nearly as strong as the Gummos.  At one point the duo shared the Tyrone single-game PAT kick record with seven.  Don did it in 1965 and Luke accomplished it in 1996.  Luke Friday remains among the top extra-point kickers, ranked seventh all-time with 44 in 1996.

At the end of the day, the nod would have to go to Ben Gummo, who could also double as the team’s kicker on kickoffs after a career of consistently pinning teams deep with kicks if not simply placing the ball in the end zone.  It’s not so much the extra-point numbers with Gummo because that in itself is a function of the teams he was playing for.  Instead, it’s the performance against Bishop McCort in 2004. It’s not an easy choice. Shaffer was a lock from the 40 and in, and Scott has all the numbers to back him up (he was also a five-time Pennsylvania State Punt, Pass and Kick champion as a youngster, defeating Robbie Gould, who played kicked for the Chicago Bears, four times).

But Ben, in leading the Eagles to a District title with a torn ligament in his knee, showed he could kick under any circumstances, no questions asked. When you’re looking for a kicker who will give you a shot when the pressure is at its highest, you need someone who is tough as nails. The championship in 2004 showed Ben was that player.

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