It was a cold, blustery night in Manheim last November, and Nate Reed, searching for some answers with his right leg in a great deal of pain, knew something was wrong.
“It was discolored with a big lump and a bruise,” Manheim Central’s senior multi-sport athlete said. “We knew something was torn, but we didn’t think it was stripped completely off the bone.”
Turns out Reed had a ruptured right groin muscle — the same right groin muscle he had spent the previous four months using to kick footballs and soccer balls for the Barons.
Amazingly, Reed gutted it out and kicked the entire fall season with the injury, before it finally gave out in the District Three Class 5A quarterfinals against Warwick on that chilly night in Manheim.
“Every kickoff that night was shorter and shorter,” Reed recalled. “And it finally stripped off the bone on the last one.”
After seeing a specialist in Philadelphia, Reed had surgery on Dec. 16, and he was back at it earlier this spring, joining classmate and co-kicker Logan Shull on the Barons’ practice fields.
That’s right: Central, a longtime special teams factory, employs a pair of kickers. And they’re both reliable. Shull, a Section Two all-star last fall, handles the extra points and the short field goal attempts. Reed, now healed up, is the kickoff man and the punter, and he’s available for longer field goal attempts.
“We’ve always tried to place a premium on our kickers, and we’ve been very fortunate to have some very good ones,” Central coach Dave Hahn said. “We’ve had a pretty good track record.”
Shull and Reed — also soccer teammates for Central — made their Barons’ gridiron debut last season, and they had instant success: Shull made 41 of 45 PAT attempts and he was 4 for 4 on field goals. Reed clicked on 8 of 9 PAT attempts and he was 5 for 5 on field goals.
“I didn’t realize we were having that kind of success until I looked (at the stats),” Reed said. “We just kept banging the kicks through and we really weren’t even thinking about it. Then one day we looked and we were like hey, we haven’t missed. It was crazy. And yes, we were surprised. Neither of us had any game action before.”
Shull never kicked a football before the start of his junior year. He had a tryout with Hahn at In The Net in Palmyra and quickly picked up the nuances of the kicking game.
“I fell in love with it right away,” said Shull, who attended a couple of kicking showcases in front of college coaches at Frostburg State in Maryland this past summer.
Proving last season was no fluke, Shull went 5 for 5 on PAT attempts and 2 for 2 on field goals, including a 32-yarder, in Central’s 41-6 season-opening win at Cedar Crest last week. The Barons open Section Two play Friday against Cocalico, their bitter rival, in Denver.
“Logan has pretty much been money kicking field goals and extra points for us,” Hahn said. “He hasn’t flinched. Neither of them ever gets rattled. It doesn’t happen. They both feel really strong about where they’re at as kickers. And that’s a great thing.”
Hahn credited longtime Central kicking coach John Phillips for playing a key role in the dynamic duo's development. Hahn said Phillips, a former Barons’ specialist himself, has a passion and a keen eye for the mechanics of kicking, and that Shull and Reed have been sponges.
“We’re always pushing each other and helping each other out with techniques,” Shull said. “We have soccer together too, so it’s like a brotherhood with us. We’re always rooting for each other.”
Reed, who had a 43-yard rugby-style punt and three touchbacks against Cedar Crest last week, worked out with former Barons’ all-state kicker Derek Adams and former NFL specialist Taylor Bertolet this past summer.
Their pointers helped out: Reed, who is also a hurdler for Central’s track and field team, was invited to the prestigious Kohl’s Kicking Scholarship Camp in Tennessee in July.
“Nate is such a goal-driven, goal-oriented kid,” Hahn said. “He’ll put targets around the field, and he’ll try and kick to the targets. His mom holds for him on practice kicks, and his dad will shag footballs for him. It’s a whole family thing. And it’s the same way with Logan.”
Classmates. Teammates. Friends. Co-kickers. Shull and Reed are certainly enjoying their time — and having plenty of success — sporting Manheim’s maroon colors.
“I never thought I’d play varsity football here,” Reed said, “so getting to put this helmet on is a big deal for me. It’s an honor to play, and it’s an honor to kick for Manheim. It’s been a blessing.”