the study of the kicking components within sports

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Massachusetts Kicking Innovator

Amongst the Harvard University football records, Percy Haughton sits atop the list for longest punt - with an 86 yarder against Yale in 1897. Haughton would go on to coach Harvard, implementing his punting skills into his coaching strategies. Following Haughton's death in 1924, the Harvard Crimson ("nation's oldest continuously published daily college newspaper") published the following tribute.
"One of the greatest punters the game has ever known. Haughton played on the University football teams of the three years from 1896 to 1899. For several years after his graduation he was an assistant coach in charge of the kickers on the Crimson squad, and in 1907, after a particularly disastrous season, he assumed complete control of the University's gridiron destinies. During the next eight years the Crimson reached the pinnacle of its football glory under his skillful guidance....

Percy Haughton introduced countless innovations into the game which he loved, played and coached so well. One of the first of them was the "specialist". Hardly had he begun the career that was to lead him to fame when he startled the football world with a dramatic inspiration that gave the University a victory over Yale. To have a specialist ready for the crucial moment in a game when he would be most needed was an unheard of innovation. But when Kennard was rushed into the Yale game in 1908 to kick the winning points through a goal from the field the football world sat up and took notice of the new strategy. A little later in the same game, when the Crimson was hard pressed, another specialist was sent to the rescue, and Henry Sprague literally kicked his team out of the impending shadow of defeat."
Haughton also introduced the use of assistant coaches. Lothrop Withington, one of his assistants, recollected on his bosses implementation of kicking into a highly successful game plan:
"In his first years at Harvard, Haughton was faced with a dearth of backfield material and with the necessity of making ten yards in three downs, as was then the case. He turned to the development of the kicking game, reserving his offense for the breaks which he felt sure were to come with a perfected kicking game, combined with an outstanding defense.

To this end, he, himself an expert punter, developed an offensive kicking attack, protection for the kicker, expert placing of the kick, good down-the-field coverage and a highly developed system of blocking to permit the returning of the opponent's kicks....

Once the break in the game came, Haughton tried either power or surprise, and if these failed he resorted to the drop-kick. Kennard's drop kick won the first Harvard-Yale game for a Haughton coached team, 4-0. Brickley won many Princeton, Dartmouth and Yale games with his educated toe, climaxing his effort with five field goals in the Harvard-Yale game of 1913."
In his book, Football How to Watch It, Haughton himself discussed the kicking game:
"Hence, instead of the constantly recurring blocked kicks of the early nineties (in the Princeton-Harvard game of 1895 there were eight kicks blocked during the game) only on rare occasions does a well-drilled team of the present day experience this humiliation. For example, in 1909 Yale blocked a punt in the Harvard game, but from that time Harvard's kicking game perfected that not a single punt was blocked in a championship contest until the Princeton game of 1920.

However, in individual skill the old-timers were as good, if not better than the present generation. Such men as Moffat who punted with either foot and who scored several drop-kicks while on the move are not to be equalled today. Such kickers as Bull, Butterworth, Trafford, Brooke, O'Day, Kernan, Coy and Felton showed such marked superiority over their opponents that the punt was used not only to kick their teams out of their own territory but, by a continuance of the same tactics, to reach a point well within the opponents' territory (sometimes referred to as "scoring distance") when the rushing game for the first time was brought into action."

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