By Matt Szabo
11:14 PM PST, November 30, 2012
The kicker in football is someone who doesn't always get a lot of credit.
Sure, a game-winning kick is great, but more often the kicker is someone who is taken for granted at best and blamed for a team's troubles at worst. He's usually seen as somewhat eccentric, too, like the fictional Miami Dolphins kicker Ray Finkle in the movie "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective." Finkle blames Dan Marino for not keeping the laces out at the end of a fictional Super Bowl game.
These things aren't true for the Corona del Mar High football team. Heading into the CIF Southern Section Southern Division title game at 2 p.m. Saturday at Angel Stadium, the Sea Kings know they have a heck of a kicker.
His name is Griff Amies, and he's doing things that kickers have never done at CdM, in Orange County and maybe even in the state of California.
Amies, a senior, has made a county-record 21 field goals this year. The state high school record is 22 field goals, set in 1994 by former Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks and UCLA All-American kicker Chris Sailer.
That was also the national record until last year, when Cole Hedlund of Argyle (Texas) made 25 field goals. But Sailer's state mark is still within Amies' sights. Sailer helped his team win CIF in 1994, and Amies would like to be able to say the same.
"It'd be a great feeling to get that record," Amies said. "I really would like to get that record, but I'd also like to win CIF, most importantly."
Amies has been money this year for the Sea Kings, and his field goals haven't been "gimmies." His long was 52 yards against Western. Eight of his field goals have been 40 yards or more.
But Amies has also been effective on kickoffs. It's been important for a CdM team that has three straight shutouts coming into Saturday's title game. It's just one of the many ways he helps the team, said CdM special teams and receivers coach Brad Bohn.
Bohn, who runs the West Coast Kicking Academy, has coached Amies for more than six years.
"There's a lot of kids who can kick a ball far, but I think what separates Griff is that he's such a determined kid," Bohn said. "He's really competitive and he's really driven. When he steps out on the field, I think he has a look in his eye that's different than other kids.
"He's done a great job with an opportunity that he's been given. Most kids would never be in this situation, because most teams don't kick this many field goals. I think the coaching staff and his teammates all have so much respect for him, and so much confidence in what he does … Last game he hit a 47-yarder, and nobody said anything. It's almost expected now because he goes out there and does it so frequently, but a 47-yard field goal is not a chip shot."
Amies said he aims to play in college, as well as eventually in the NFL. It's been quite a ride for the CdM senior, who said he had a heart issue when born and had to have open heart surgery. Amies spent so much time in hospitals when he was young that it hurt his development.
Griff, who stands 5-foot-11, is now very strong. He participates in all of the team's weight training, CdM Coach Scott Meyer said.
"He does everything anyone else does," Meyer said. "It's not like he's just a kicker who comes out. He's actually a football player that goes out there and kicks. He's a major part of the team. He doesn't try to take any shortcuts … He's been such a weapon for us."
Bohn said Griff has put on 15 to 20 pounds of muscle in the past year. Growing up, he wasn't always that strong.
You may know Ryan Baker as the coach of the Rea boys' dynasty in the Daily Pilot Cup soccer tournament. But Amies' dad, Grif (with one "F"), hired Baker when Griff was young to help him with his kicking skills. At the time, Griff was in adaptive physical education, for kids who aren't up to their grade level in skills like coordination and balance.
"Griff couldn't even run properly," Baker, who teaches P.E. at Rea, said of those early years. "His hand-eye coordination was really bad. I just worked with him for years … We probably got him out of adaptive P.E. by the second grade. Anything he was interested in, we would go do. He always had a strong leg."
Griff had a pacemaker put into his chest when he was 7, because his standing heart rate was drifting low at night. Now, the cardiologist said Griff is in such good shape that he no longer needs it.
Griff always strove to get better, even at that young age. By the time he was 12, he could consistently make 35-yard field goals.
"He played soccer for years, but he always loved playing football," Baker said. "We would go out to the park over at Bonita Creek and kick footballs for hours. Then we'd go to Newport Harbor when they weren't around, and work on kicking the ball. That worked out well for him."
Baker, who has seen a handful of CdM's games this year, said he plans to attend Saturday's title game against Garden Grove. He has given Griff Amies advice, not to worry or feel nervous about the individual record.
Griff Amies is surely part of a special team at CdM. So was his father, at the Sea Kings' rival school. He was a junior receiver/defensive back on the famous 1970 Newport Harbor High football team that won the Sailors' first league title in 28 years. A documentary about that team, "Touchdown Newport," debuted for a private audience in September.
Griff's parents, Grif and Karen, have always been supportive of their only son.
"All he ever wanted to do is kick," Grif Amies said. "He's passionate about it, and he's got great coaching and parents that are behind him. He's been through a lot, but it's all good. The whole thing goes a little deeper than just Saturday afternoon … [but] he's not a dainty kid, you know. What happened 18 years ago is well-healed. He's as strong as anyone else. He's always wanted to kick on Sundays. That's his whole deal. He's got the drive to do it."
Griff transferred from Newport Harbor to CdM right before his junior year. He was ruled ineligible for varsity that year, so he kicked for the CdM junior varsity squad.
This year, he has made quite a statement. He made a season-high four field goals in the Sea Kings' narrow Battle of the Bay loss. The week before, the school-record 52-yarder came in Amies' first game of the year. In practice, Griff said he has made 60-yard field goals.
"I feel like I'm getting more confident every game with my kicks," Griff Amies said. "I remember my first game this year, I was so nervous."
As he has been for every CdM game this year, dad was in attendance too for that Western game. He felt very proud when that kick went through the uprights.
"That was great," Grif Amies said. "I was very, very happy for him. His mom and I were as happy as he is … That 52-yarder, he deserved that."
Grif Amies quickly corrected himself.
"Not deserved it," he said. "He worked for it."