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Donovan gets the job done

I-L/MA senior rock solid in the kicking department

I-L/MA’s Conor Donovan kicks an extra point with a hold from Mitch Jurius. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
November 20, 2011
MEREDITH – He's not built like your typical kicker, but teams quickly realize they're dealing with quite the leg when Conor Donovan shows off his skills each week.

The Inter-Lakes/Moultonboro senior really came into his own this year, serving as the Lakers' punter and placekicker in addition to his duties as running back and linebacker during their march to the state championship game. Donovan kicked the game-winning field goal during I-L/MA's 3-0 win over Epping-Newmarket when the teams met during the regular season, and his abilities in the kickoff and punt games has been just as valuable throughout the fall.

"Honestly, it was just a natural thing that happened," Donovan said of his start in kicking. "I've always been able to kick a ball. It started with soccer, I played goalie. And I guess it just carried over to football."

Once he started kicking as an eighth-grader playing for Newfound, the progression to being one of the best in the state came while honing his craft in Meredith.

"Coach (Paul Lavigne) says it's a huge part of the game," explained Donovan. "It's a nice weapon to have if you're in your own zone and have to kick it away. I've had some pretty good punts this year that have helped change field position."

Donovan's ability to get both air and distance out of his punts has allowed the Lakers ample time to get down the field and cover, not allowing opponents to get many significant returns in the process.

"A punt is usually the hardest thing to cover, the most dangerous," said Donovan, who had a 64-yard punt against Gilford earlier this season. "If you're back in your zone at the 10-yard line, your back is against the wall. You need to be able to get the ball out of there and make the field as long as possible for the other team."

While Donovan's kickoffs have been another impressive part of his kicking repertoire (he put four kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks against Gilford), his ability to drill extra points and mix in the occasional field goal has really rounded out the I-L/MA offense.

"I feel comfortable kicking in the 30-yard range, maybe low 40s sometimes," he explained. "But it depends on the situation usually. You could have a 20-yard field goal but if it's for the championship or something, stuff starts to pop into your head a little bit and it makes it that much tougher."

The relationship Donovan has built with quarterback and placeholder Mitch Jurius has also grown nicely since the beginning of the season. While Donovan had grown accustomed to Josh Guilmette doing the holding, Jurius stepped in after Guilmette graduated last year.

"I've never worked with Mitch before this year but he's really good at getting the ball down and he's gotten very fast with it," Donovan said.

Donovan's ability to consistently connect on extra points has also enabled the Lakers to mix things up on the PAT attempts. During the semifinal win over Newport, I-L/MA faked an extra point kick, with Jurius rolling out and hitting an open receiver for two points. Donovan's kicking skills had Newport concentrated on the kick, not expecting the fake.

"We work on plays like that and coach will sometimes say, 'This is the week we're gonna need it," said senior lineman Hayden Jurius. "Just to make sure we're sharp with it and ready to use it if necessary he'll say things like that. And it worked for us because we knew we might have to use it at any given time."

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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