PREP FOOTBALL: Fernstrom, Kachel prepare to get their kicks during 7A state championship game

Fayetteville junior kicker Nathan Kachel (40) kicks off after a score Sept. 22 against Bentonville West at Wolverine Stadium in Centerton. Kachel and Ryan Fernstrom, Bentonville’s kicker, hope to make a difference when their schools face off for the Class 7A state championship at noon today.
(Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette/Brent Soule)
Fayetteville junior kicker Nathan Kachel (40) kicks off after a score Sept. 22 against Bentonville West at Wolverine Stadium in Centerton. Kachel and Ryan Fernstrom, Bentonville’s kicker, hope to make a difference when their schools face off for the Class 7A state championship at noon today. (Special to NWA Democrat-Gazette/Brent Soule)


There was a time when kickers had to make the biggest adjustments during state championship football games, simply because they had to put the ball through the more narrow uprights used in college games.

That has changed since Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium bought and installed goal posts that can be adjusted to fit the high school measurements -- 23 feet, 4 inches wide as opposed to 18-6 in college and the NFL.

That means it will give the kickers in the Class 7A state championship game -- juniors Ryan Fernstrom of Bentonville and Nathan Kachel of Fayetteville -- one less thing to worry about when they take at field at noon today.

"I'm excited for it," Fernstrom said. "I think it's going to be a great atmosphere. You know, Fayetteville and Bentonville -- that's a rivalry that's gone on for ages. It's going to be great and a whole lot of fun."

Kachel has the advantage on Fernstrom when it comes to the War Memorial Stadium experience. Fayetteville brought him up as a freshman and let him kick during the 2021 Class 7A state championship game against Bryant.

Kachel kicked a 22-yard field goal to pull the Bulldogs within 21-16 with 8:18 remaining in the third quarter. But his next field-goal attempt is the one that is etched in his memory. He was trying to a 27-yard kick that would have pulled Fayetteville within two points, but instead it was blocked and returned for a touchdown to give Bryant a 28-16 lead.

"I just want revenge for that, really," Kachel said. "I want to make sure that doesn't happen again. I want to do my best. I think we can go out there and perform. We've been getting ready for this, and I think we will be OK.

"I'm not really worried at all. I feel like I've been prepared. I've done what I needed to do to get where we are at right now. I've just stayed consistent and I'll keep doing what I've been doing. I'll be OK."

Fernstrom, however, has shown how well he can adjust to things throughout the entire season as he balanced his football kicking duties with cross country running. He would spend a number of Friday nights with one set of teammates on the football field, then be with his cross country teammates the following morning to run

The ultimate adjustment came right after Bentonville beat Cabot in a Class 7A state quarterfinal game two weeks ago. Fernstrom elected to stay until the end of the game and help celebrate the victory in the Tigers' last home game. Then he and his family took off in a minivan and for The Woodlands, Texas, so he could run the next day in the NXR South Region cross country meet.

That kind of devotion paid off huge dividends for Fernstrom, who said he slept about 4 hours during the ride. He ran the 5,000-meter race in a personal-best 15 minutes 57.7 seconds and helped Bentonville earn a second-place finish and an automatic qualifier spot for the national meet.

"It's been a little bit of a grind," Fernstrom sad. "I woke up and ran the race at 8:30, then hopped in another car and came home. That was a long 24 hours, but a good 24 hours. It's been like that most of the season -- a lot of kick, run, kick, run.

"At this point, I'm used to it. Most days, I wake up and do cross country practice, go to school and then I kick. The two have sort of blended themselves together, so I'm used to doing both."

There will still be adjustments for both kickers to do before Bentonville and Fayetteville play each other in the state championship game for the fifth time since 2010. Both of them are used to kicking in open-air stadiums and not the bowl that War Memorial Stadium provides.

The other thing will be kicking in broad daylight -- something they never do in normal game situations.

"I think in warm-ups I will try to get all of that squared away," Kachel said. "I had the same problem when I was kicking a the University of Arkansas' stadium. There was a big whirl [of wind] in there.

"It's really about getting those warm-up reps and feeling it out. I'll going to work on it in the pregame and get it squared away, then looking at the flags and seeing which way the wind is going."

Both kickers have not really been tested much on their field-goal kicking abilities. Fernstrom said his longest field goal this season is 27 yards. while Kachel has been good from 35 yards out. Both kickers know they are capable of longer kicks.

"I'd totally be fine with getting a chance to kick a longer field goal," Fernstrom said. "I would rather have touchdowns, though, because they are more points and helps the team out more. But if they need me to step up and make something in the 30s, then that's perfect. That's what I'm here for."

  photo  Fayetteville kicker Nathan Kachel
 
 
  photo  Bentonville kicker Ryan Fernstrom
 
 

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Fayetteville

DATEOPPONENTRESULT

Aug. 25CabotW, 43-21

Sept. 1North Little RockW, 58-20

Sept. 8FS NorthsideW, 56-0

Sept. 22Bentonville WesttW, 56-21

Sept. 29RogersW, 47-42

Oct. 6FS SouthsideW, 45-31

Oct. 13BentonvilleW, 42-21

Oct. 20SpringdaleW, 52-15

Oct. 27Rogers HeritageW, 35-7

Nov. 3Springdale Har-BerW, 56-28

Nov. 17FS SouthsideW, 30-24*

Nov. 24ConwayW, 24-21*

*Class 7A playoffs

COACH Casey Dick (39-19 in fifth season)

MASCOT Bulldogs

CONFERENCE 7A-West

RANKINGS No. 3 in Class 7A, No. 5 overall

PLAYERS TO WATCH QB Drake Lindsey (Sr., 6-5, 220), WR Jaison DeLamar (Jr., 5-11, 190), DL Kaden Spencer (Sr., 6-0, 230), LB Landon Jones (Sr., 6-0, 205)

 

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