In each of his 20 seasons prior to this one, Wittenberg Tigers coach Joe Fincham would have had to talk about his punter and kicker in separate terms. They were always different people.
Now Fincham can say, “I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but our best player might be our kicker/punter.”
Senior Will Gingery has worked overtime this season. He handles all the punting, all the kickoffs, all the field goals and all the point-after attempts. That’s not even the most impressive part of his story. The most impressive part of his story is he has done all that as well as anyone in the country and better than any player in Wittenberg history.
The Tigers are 8-1 and 7-1 in the North Coast Athletic Conference and can clinch at least a share of the league title in their regular-season finale at 1 p.m. Saturday against Allegheny — as well as a Division III playoff berth — in part because of Gingery. His 69-yard punt in the fourth quarter against Wabash helped clinch Wittenberg’s biggest victory of the season.
The Tigers hope to finish strong this week to build momentum for the playoffs. The bracket will be released at 6 p.m. Sunday.
“We can’t go over to Allegheny and mess around,” Gingery said. “This is our last chance to prove to the committee what we have and maybe get a home game.”
Gingery, a Bexley High School graduate, ranks third in the nation in punting average. His 44.6 yards punting average will set a Wittenberg single-season record by more than two yards over Jacob Thomas (42.32 in 2004) if it holds up.
Gingery leads the nation in field goals (17 of 21). No Wittenberg player had ever made more than 14 in a season.
Gingery is the only player in the country who ranks among the national leaders in punting and field goals. His performance has attracted the attention of the college football world. He will play in the National Bowl, a Division II-III all-star game on Dec. 4 in Daytona Beach, Fla. He’ll also play in the D3 Senior Classic on Dec. 17 in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and he earned an invitation to the Dream Bowl in Virginia Tech, Va., Jan. 12-16.
Fincham was hesitant to have Gingery kick and punt last season because no one ever had, so Gingery focused on punting and shared kicking duties.
“Ty Smith was a great kicker last year,” Gingery said. “(Fincham) wanted to minimize my kicking. Ty did all the shorter field goals and extra points. I got all the long field goals. He saw how successful a year I had, so he had no concerns coming into this year.”
Gingery was a soccer player who started kicking for the football team in high school. He didn’t punt because Bexley had Jalen Robinette, who would go on to kick at the Air Force Academy.
At Wittenberg, Gingery earned the starting punter job as a freshman, averaging 37.4 yards. He added kickoffs to his duties as a sophomore. Last year, he increased his average to 42.3 yards per punt and made 6 of 7 field goals, including one from 47 yards.
This season, Gingery has made two 50-yard field goals. There have been only two other field goals in Wittenberg history of 50 yards or more. Bill Carpenter set the record with a 52-yard field goal in 1960. Gingery has made a 58-yard field goal in practice and made a wind-aided one from 63.
“(Fincham) knows we can kick that far,” Gingery said. “It just depends on the situation.”
With all his jobs, Gingery’s leg started feeling heavy halfway through the season, so the coaches started to track how many kicks he takes.
“I usually warm up with punts,” Gingery said. “That gets my leg loose. Before kickoff period, I usually hit five or six kickoffs. The field goals are at the end of practice. I usually make sure I make a couple of those on frame. The biggest thing my coach and I have worked on is limiting my reps in practices during the week and especially for the game. For practice, I only have to stay loose for an hour and a half. For a game, we go out an hour and a half early to warm up. The first couple games, I was taking 150 kicks into the net. I’ve tried to do a good of staying loose during the game and not kicking as much.”
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