Missouri’s top high school football players: Meet the state’s best specialists

By Jon Walker

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a position-by-position look at some of the top players in Missouri high school football. This list focuses on the kickers and punters.

There are hundreds of standout football players in Missouri, and these lists are not intended to be comprehensive. Use the comments section to discuss the other kickers and punters worthy of fans’ attention in 2021.

Evan Abercrombie, 6-3, 210, Sr., Montgomery City

Abercrombie waited until his last high school season to show off his leg, and that’s exactly what he’s been doing this fall. His previous season-high point total was 33, which he set as a junior throughout 11 games. This fall, he already had 42 points through nine games, doing so by making 21-of-26 extra points and 7-of-8 field goals. 

Jeremiah Blakely, 5-11, 200, Jr., Ava

The junior has accounted for 60 total points this season en route to Ava riding a 9-0 record into the postseason. He’s kicked eight touchbacks on 30 attempts while making 48-of-52 extra points. He hasn’t had much volume this season, making four of only seven field goal attempts. However, he hit a season-long 41-yard try during a 45-6 win against Salem Sept. 24.

Logan Bruns, 6-1, 185, Sr., Jackson

Bruns is the kicker for a Jackson team that averages nearly 48 points per game, so his leg hasn’t been relied on too much throughout the course of the regular season. He’s nailed his only attempt, though he’s been busy kicking extra points, which he’s made 49-of-54 (91%). He’s also a kickoff specialist, having 49 touchbacks on 64 kickoffs. 

Mitchell Cory, 6-0, 180, Jr., William Chrisman

Cory, just a junior, has made two field goals on four attempts this season to go along with 17 successful point-after attempts. The four-star recruit has also kicked for 29 touchbacks so far this fall. His average hang time on kickoffs is 3.6 seconds, all while making 80% of his field goals throughout his career.

Blake Craig, 5-10, 160, Jr., Liberty North

Craig has accounted for nearly six touchdown’s worth of points this season, using his leg for 57 total points. Along with 32 touchbacks on 52 kickoffs, the junior has 39-of-40 on point-after attempts. A season-best, 14-point performance came during a 44-13 win against Liberty Sept. 3, when Craig was 5-of-5 on extra points and 3-of-3 on field goals. 

Max Ellis, 6-2, 180, Jr., St. Michael the Archangel

Ellis has been nearly perfect this fall, connecting on all 30 of his extra-point attempts and 8-of-9 field goals. He’s had a touchback on 25 of his 43 kickoffs, too. His season-long kick is a 45-yard strike during a 45-8 win against Diamond Oct. 2.

Dane Efird, 5-10, 150, Fr., Branson

The Pirates haven’t seen the results they’ve wanted to this fall, carrying just a 3-6 record into district play, but they’ve found a bright spot in Efird. Just a freshman, Efird is showing why he’ll be a premier kicking recruit in the next few years, hitting 7-of-11 field goals and 14-of-16 extra points. During Branson’s 23-21 win against Ozark in Week 2, Efird was perfect, nailing both of his point-after attempts and all three of his field goals, including a season-best 36-yarder.

Landon Gelven, 6-2, 170, Sr., MICDS

Gelven hasn’t been called on much this season, with MICDS more often than not finishing drives with touchdowns instead of being forced to settle for a field goal. He’s been nearly perfect this year, though, making 48-of-50 extra points and 1-of-1 field-goal attempts. He’s had 18 touchbacks on 66 kickoffs, but perhaps nothing this fall is more impressive than his outing during a 59-52 win over Park Hills Central Sept. 3, when he was 7-of-8 on point-after attempts and made a 37-yard field goal.

Adam Hounsom, 6-3, 170, Sr., Rolla

Hounsom has been a key factor in everything Rolla has done this fall, compiling more than 1,500 total yards of offense while serving as the team’s punter. He’s been called on to punt 15 times throughout the regular season, averaging 40.5 yards each time. He’s had one of the strongest legs in Missouri this season, showing that when he had a 68-yard punt during a 27-6 loss to Kickapoo Oct. 1.

Joseph Ipsen, 5-11, 175, Jr., Joplin

The soccer star who also has the kicking duties for Joplin’s football team hasn’t disappointed in his junior campaign. En route to the Eagles’ 8-1 record in the regular season, Ipsen accounted for seven touchdown’s worth of points (42). He’s made 33-of-36 point-after attempts and all three of his field goals. He had a season-long field goal of 42 yards during a 41-40 win against Webb City in Week 1.

Mason Love, 6-0, 165, So., Park Hill South

The Panthers headed into the postseason undefeated, and the special-teams efforts from Love have been a key part in that. Just a sophomore, he has emerged as one of the state’s best punters and kickers, averaging 39.3 yards per punt this season and landing 10-of-20 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. He had a season-long punt of 72 yards during a Week 1 matchup with Grandview. He’s also 26-of-31 on extra points to go along with a mark of 7-of-8 on field goals. 

Trey Mulholland, 6-2, 250, Sr., Aurora

When he’s not sacking quarterbacks on the defensive line or running routes at tight end, Mulholland has been able to flip the field when Aurora’s offense struggles. The senior has 24 punts for a total of 766 yards, averaging 32 yards per punt. Five of his 24 (20%) of his punts have landed inside the 20-yard line.

Cash Parker, 6-2, 200, Jr., Blue Springs South

Parker, who also serves as the Jaguars’ starting quarterback, has been able to flip the field when the offense sputters. He’s averaged 32.6 yards per punt on 33 punts this season for a total of 1,077 yards, and three of his punts have landed inside of the 20. He had a season-long punt of 55 yards during a 27-0 loss to Liberty North in Week 9.

Xander Shepherd, 5-9, 150, So., Fort Osage

Shepherd, just a sophomore, has been nearly perfect this fall. He’s made 18-of-20 extra points and 6-of-6 field goals, including a season-long of 43 yards. During the Indians’ 35-21 win against Staley Sept. 3, Shepherd accounted for 12 points in a game that was only decided by 14. 

Logan Sparks, 6-5, 220, Sr., St. James

The tight end-turned-punter has consistently had one of the strongest legs in Missouri, punting 20 times for an average distance of 41.4 yards. Four of his punts have landed inside of the opponent’s 20-yard line, including a season-long 52-yard punt during an 18-16 win against Hermann Sept. 10.

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