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2017 Football: Power Punter Kolby Baird Gives Tigers Options on Fourth Down

Centralia quarterback Kolby Baird looks downfield at wide receivers during the first day of practice in a field behind Tiger Stadium on Wednesday.

2017 Football: Power Punter Kolby Baird Gives Tigers Options on Fourth Down

By Jordan Nailon

jnailon@chronline.com

When Kolby Baird decided he wanted to learn how to punt a football he simply went out back and took some lessons from his old man.

“My dad took me out in the backyard and showed me what he used to do,” said Baird, whose father, Kevin, used to quarterback and punt for Centralia — just as Kolby will do during the 2017 season.

Baird has only been practicing his punting technique for two years and didn’t take over punting duties until midseason last year for the Tigers. Still, he earned All-League honors last season and his best punt currently sits just 5 yards shy of the all-time school record of 75 yards. Baird believes he has a good shot of breaking that record this year, so long as his new coach Jeremy Thibault affords him enough opportunity.

The thing is, Thibault doesn’t like to give up possession of the football. On kickoffs he likes to go onside and on fourth down he has shown a strong propensity to call for a fake punt. He says there’s no reason to expect that to change much this year.

“It’s not really my thing to punt. I mean we’ll go for it any time we can on fourth down. Basically we’re going to have to change our plans to allow him to do his job. We’ll still fake it on some downs and not just necessarily concede that (loss of possession),” explained Thibault.

Centralia’s Kolby Baird

Complicating things further is the fact that Baird is the Tiger’s strong armed quarterback who has shown an ability to use his legs to escape tight spots.

“It will be a tough decision at the time to have him punt it or fake it because he is very valuable to have and I don’t want to waste his ability by forcing him to fake it,” Thibault said.

Baird spent the summer working on his kicking and even attended a college exposure camp in Kent, where college coaches and instructors kept tabs on the best pigskin kickers in the region. He says he enjoyed the showcase and harbors a real ambition to take his talents to the collegiate arena if he is so lucky after his senior season on the gridiron for the Tigers.

“I just like to kick the ball far, I guess,” said Baird. “Most of the time I can get a pretty good spiral on it and get it up there.”

Thibault says it will be nice to have a traditional style punter who can boom a kick downfield and help to shift the battle for field position in his team’s favor, even if he only uses that option from time to time.

“That’s kind of the bright side of it is that you know that he knows what he’s doing. In practice our guys have been covering really well to cover the field,” noted Thibault, who has been working with Baird to improve his hang time on his punts in order to prevent pristine kicks from turning into points for the other team.

“It kind of all works together. You’ve got to have confidence in your defense to go out and do their job after he does,” said Thibault.

For his part, Baird seems ready to get the season started and let the chips fall where they may. He says that Thibault and his coaching staff have brought an infectious energy to the Tigers’ early season practices and he’s confident that the coaching staff will make the right call when it comes time to go for it, fake or punt on fourth down.

“Everybody has just really bought into the system and everybody loves the coaches,” said Baird. “We’re just getting a feel for the new program, but we feel good about our chances.”

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