Greenbrier High School senior Ben Tankersley is small in stature, but when the Wolfpack football team's place-kicker swings his right leg, he comes up big.
As a junior, Tankersley booted three field goals to give the Pack a 9-7 win over Evans High School in the season opener at Blanchard Stadium.
At 5-foot-7, 140 lbs., Tankersley doesn't strike fear in opponents; likewise, he wasn't scared when he stepped up to attempt a 28-yard field goal with only 5:35 remaining in the fourth quarter last year at Evans.
With his team trailing 7-6, Tankersley calmly connected for the game winner.
"That's what every kicker looks for. When you're at practice trying to give yourself a situation, that would be the situation you'd put yourself in," Tankersley said.
After the solid start against Evans, Tankersley didn't let up. He nailed three field goals against Burke County, two against Lakeside, and hit 9 of 13 field goal attempts for the season. He was a perfect 16 for 16 on extra points.
Tankersley made all of his 16 extra points and nine of his 13 field goal attempts last year. The senior has hit a 58-yarder in practice.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"I don't think twice about putting Ben in there to kick a field goal," Greenbrier coach Mickey Derrick said. "He loves the pressure. That's the competitor in him - he does not like to lose. He thoroughly enjoyed that game at Evans."
Tankersley returns for his senior campaign, and will handle kickoffs, field goals and extra points for the Pack this season. Greenbrier opens against Evans Friday at the Brierpatch.
While kickers are notoriously quirky types, Tankersley terms himself a "normal" kicker.
Baseball is another story. The Pack's starting second baseman says he has some diamond superstitions, but they didn't save him from a fluke injury incurred while chasing a fly ball his freshman year.
"My cleat kept going and my leg snapped right in half," he explained.
The broken leg caused him to miss half of his sophomore season in football, but now, he's better than ever. His longest field goal in a game last year was 41 yards, and he has hit from 58 in practice.
Place-kicking proficiency has created one dilemma - Tankersley loves baseball, but he might draw more college offers for football.
"I think I'm a little better at football," he admits. "If you had told me that a few years ago, it would have shocked me, because baseball has always been my favorite sport."
In football, Tankersley is so reliable that when the Pack crosses midfield, his teammates start saying, "We're in field goal range."
"Guys on our team think the world of him," Derrick says. "They'd go to war with him."
By all accounts, Region 3-AAAA will be a war - with 11 squads fighting for four playoff spots, Tankersley realizes his leg might be the difference.
"The kicking game will be very important, because we missed the playoffs last year by three points (a 3-0 loss to Hephzibah was the difference)," he said. "Three points can get you into the playoffs or keep you out, so kicking plays a pretty big role."
After giving Evans a swift kick last season, Tankersley became big man on the Greenbrier campus; he'd love to be the hero again this Friday night at the Brierpatch.
"I hope I get that opportunity, but we'll just play the game and see how it goes. I'd rather see the offense score a whole lot and not have to worry about field goals. If it does come down to a field goal, I'll be looking forward to it."
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