Connection Between All-Star players was a Snap

Snapper Graves, kicker Phillips on field one last time at Freedom Bowl Classic

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Quirky.

Oddball.

There is a reason those words are frequently used to describe a kicker and a long-snapper: They are accurate.

Nick Phillips and Karl Graves showed up a little early to the barbecue dinner that kicked off Freedom Bowl Classic week. When asked where their teammates were, they both confidently said this was all the team that was needed — just the two of them.

They were joking (we think), but there is something to be said about a near-perfect long-snapper and a kicker/punter who is true.

Graves said Phillips was the key to Skyview’s third consecutive Class 4A Greater St. Helens League championship last fall, when Phillips kicked three field goals in a 37-34 win against Union.

“You don’t think about it,” Graves said, referring to a quality kicker in high school. “But once he’s gone, it will be a big deal. Without him, we probably don’t win league.”

Graves was Phillips’ long-snapper for all three years they spent on varsity — for punts, field goals, and extra points. They can recall just one bad snap in their high school careers, including freshman year before they were on varsity.

“Our whole class, we were good friends,” Graves said. “But there is a special bond between long-snapper and kicker.”

“It’s important to make the world go round,” Phillips said.

The two close friends have one more game together before they go their separate ways in college football. Saturday night, Graves and Phillips will be two of Skyview’s four representatives on the West squad for the Freedom Bowl Classic, an all-star football game for recent Southwest Washington high school graduates. Kickoff at Kiggins Bowl is set for 7:30 p.m.

Graves, who is known more for being a talented wide receiver, will be heading to Southern Oregon University. Phillips is going east, to Minot State University in North Dakota. They hope to have one last victory to celebrate together on their old home field.

This also will be their second all-star game of the summer. Both played in the all-state game last month.

Graves was told it was the first time the all-state game invited a kicker/punter specialist. In years past, Graves was told, they just asked if any of the position players could kick.

Phillips said he had not heard that. Whether it is true or not, Phillips said he appreciated the kind words.

Of course, at all-star football games, the kicking game is not always in synch.

While the snaps were good, Phillips had two kicks blocked at the all-state contest. Both players said it was not the kicker’s fault.

“I put my head up to see where the ball was going, and the guy was right in front of me,” Phillips said.

He is hoping for better results at the Freedom Bowl.

“I hope we get to do some punts,” Phillips acknowledged.

What? Then Graves reminded Phillips that their team does not want to punt too much — if at all.

“But I like punting,” Phillips said.

Remember, quirky.

“OK. Some field goals and kickoffs, too.”

Phillips knows that whether it’s punts or kicks, Graves will get him the ball in perfect position. Graves did not play defense for Skyview, so when the team was practicing defense, he and Phillips would get their timing down just right.

“At least 50 snaps a day,” Phillips recalled.

Like anything, practice makes one better.

“It’s like throwing a ball, but you’re looking updside-down,” Graves said.

Who throws a ball upside down? Oddballs.

Whatever, it works.

Phillips said it will be weird in college, getting used to a new snapper. Graves said he will try to become the long-snapper in college, too, while he competes to become a starting wide receiver as a freshman.

On Saturday, they have one more game together in the same uniform.

That will not be odd nor quirky.

Instead, it will be one more special moment for Nick Phillips and Karl Graves.