…….Let’s have one for the kicker…….

It’s not until the last second with the game tied when you realize how much the kicker means to the team.

Through the upright, he’s the hero.

Misses wide, hangs his head low in disappointment.

Rosemead High School football coach Matt Koffler has always emphasized the importance of special teams which makes the kicker an essential part of the group, too.

Senior Bobby Maldonado, a soccer-turned-football player, has done quite alright for himself.

He has been the kicker for the Panthers varsity team since making the team his freshman season, which will culminate Saturday night at 7 when Rosemead plays Paraclete at Knight High in Palmdale for the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division championship game.

In each of his seasons, Maldonado has tallied at least 50 points and this season he’s amassed 80 points. Along the way he’s had the fortune of winning games when the

Panthers relied on his right foot. More often than not he’s come through.

“He’s just a stud,” Koffler said. “He’s one of those guys that although he’s a kicker he shows up every day.

“He’s very accurate at what he does and we’re huge on special teams and we need to have a good kicker; he’s one of them.”

The playoffs haven’t been too kind for Maldonado.

He missed two PAT’s against San Dimas two weeks ago and he missed a 52 and 35-yard field goals last week against Monrovia in the semifinals.

But much of it is attributed to a San Dimas lineman rolling on his kicking foot, which swelled up leading up to the Monrovia game. His foot is fine now and despite the injury and the few misses in the playoffs, Maldonado keeps his confidence high. He knows he has the support of Koffler and his teammates.

“We think he’s one of the best, if not the best, kicker around,” Koffler acknowledged. “He’s a very special punter and very special place-kicker.

“Most of his kickoffs head to the end zone and most people don’t realize what he does.”

The Panthers will rely on Maldonado’s leg to sail the ball into the end zone on kickoffs and punts in an attempt to prevent long run backs on special teams.

“We want to control the field some how and how we control the field is make sure you’re excellent in the kicking game,” Koffler said. “If we can make teams go the long distance, 80 or 70 yards, then we want them to do that instead of 40 or 50-yard drives; that’s why we concentrate the kicking game so much.”

PAYING TRIBUTE

When long-time Rosemead wrestling coach Louie Madrigal passed away about eight months ago, and former head coach Jim Zant died from a car accident six months ago, Koffler wanted to honor them in one way.

Madrigal coached wrestling at Rosemead for 30 years and Zant coached the Panthers to the 1982 CIF championship.

You’ll notice a green “JZ” and a black “LM” on the back of the Panthers’ helmets, Koffler’s way of honoring the fallen heroes. Why green for Zant?
He was a huge Notre Dame fan.

Oh, he was Irish, too.