KENT: Just a few months ago, Anthony Melchiori stood on the sideline at Dix Stadium watching the Kent State football team participate in a kick scrimmage during spring practice.
As he watched the action, it dawned on the senior kicker/punter from nearby Aurora High School that he was talented enough to play with these guys during his upcoming freshman season at KSU, provided he was given a fair chance to compete.
The 5-foot-11, 186-pounder got his shot Saturday afternoon at Dix and made the most of it, kicking a scrimmage-winning 42-yard field goal that gave his Gold Team a 24-21 victory over the Blue Team.
“Coming into today, I knew I had something to prove being a freshman and being second on the depth chart,” said Melchiori, who was both the punter and the kicker for the Gold Team. “I wanted to prove I could do it and come in as a freshman and make contributions to this 2012 team. … It was something I marked on the calendar that I was looking forward to. It was a big day for me and I spent a lot of the week trying to prepare so I could get the job done today.”
After being congratulated on the field by his teammates, Melchiori made his way a few rows up into the stands and was greeted with congratulatory hugs by his father and grandfather, who watched the whole scrimmage.
“I like the spirit of the team on both sides of the ball and I thought the energy was great,” second-year coach Darrell Hazell said of the overall performance for the afternoon. “I thought guys were running around hard and I liked how it ended — with the young guy stepping up, making one.”
Before Melchiori’s clinching kick, senior kicker Freddy Cortez missed an attempt from the same distance that would have given the Blue Team the edge.
“It was just one of those things where you’re trying to play the wind, you’ve got a new snapper and a new holder that you’re not quite comfortable with, that’s in the back of my mind,” Cortez said.
“But no excuses. I kicked it and as it went up, unfortunately the wind picked it up and started rocking it. It was either gonna hit the (upright) and go in or hit it and bounce out, and it ended up hitting it exactly and falling out … It takes time to develop a trust issue, but (holder) Andrew Horning and (long snapper) Trip Ison did a wonderful job today. I just didn’t execute the last kick.”
Melchiori admitted his winner wasn’t easy, either.
“When it left my foot, I saw it going way right,” he said. “Then all of a sudden the wind came in and blew it all the way into the middle of the field goal, and I was like, ‘Yes!’ ”
There also were some things Hazell and his staff saw during the scrimmage that they’ll review on film so that they can be corrected.
It was a tough afternoon in particular for Horning, a Stow native, who was under pressure often as the Blue team punter and was even hit a couple of times – a few of which were called for penalties.
“We have a new protection in and that’s what we needed to find out – how close they’re getting to the punter,” Hazell said. “I don’t want to give away too much, but what I thought was going to happen, happened. So we need to make an adjustment next week in protection, a couple things that we need to tweak. But I think we can get that problem fixed.”
Despite missing the last kick, Cortez was on the money on a majority of his booming kicks.
“I’m not sure Freddy ever lacked confidence, but he seems like a much more confident guy to me right now,” Hazell said. “I think he’s been more consistent and I also think he’s trying to be more of a leader and help those young guys out.”
Add those growing intangibles to the fact that Cortez has been the Flashes’ starting kicker since he arrived on campus as a freshman in 2009 out of Fort Meade, Fla., and odds are he’ll remain in the role heading into his senior season.
Thus, Melchiori will probably continue to battle Horning during the remainder of camp for the starting punting position.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Kent State blog at www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.