Coldwater-South Central junior Gage Girk is eight-man football’s best kicker – and can make a strong case for Kansas’ best specialist, regardless of classification. Last fall as a sophomore, Girk converted 17 of 25 extra points and 3 of 4 field goals.
His three field goals came from 45, 46 and 44 yards for the Timberwolves. Additionally, Girk started at cornerback and picked off five passes for SC’s second straight 9-2 season.
South Central, the consolidation of Protection and Coldwater, played eventual state champion Hoxie close in the second round of the Eight-Man, Division I playoffs.
Girk tied for fourth nationally among eight-man kickers in field goals made, according to MaxPreps’ statistical lists. His 46-yarder, which came Sept. 29 in a key 23-16 district win versus Macksville, marked the nation’s longest field goal for eight-man players.
Among Kansas 11-man players, Andover Central’s Clark Schoonover, who has graduated, was the only one to kick a longer field goal than Girk when he made a 49-yarder.
”Everyone was just really excited, something you don’t see all the time,” Girk said.
Girk earned first team all-state eight-man kicking honors. He has attended camps at Oklahoma State and Kansas State and would like to kick at the Division I level. In practice, Girk has made two from 62 yards and was just short from 68.
The 5-foot-9, 155 pounder started kicking in his front yard around three to four years old. In the youth ranks, he started following Tim Tebow during his All-American career at the University of Florida. Tebow still remains Girk’s role model.
“He wore the Bible verses underneath his eyes,” Girk said. “I thought that was just really cool, and so in pee-wee, I would do that, and he’s always just been someone I’ve looked up to and tried to be like.”
In junior high, Girk played six-man football and kicked one field goal versus Pawnee Heights. Girk will often head down the street to the field and kick for several hours.
Entering Girk’s freshman year, Billy Nichols took over as head coach after Matt Smith went to Atwood-Rawlins County. Girk started to kick on the field after a summer camp concluded.
Nichols, who came from Oklahoma, was impressed with Girk’s leg and said the T-Wolves might have to try some field goals. In 2016, Girk went 12 of 19 on extra points and made his only field goal, a 22-yarder against Ingalls.
Last year, Girk received his first chance in Week 2 against Minneola when he connected from 45 yards. Nichols called a timeout and asked Girk if he could make it. Girk believed he could.
“The first one was into about an 18-mile-an-hour wind, and I just barely made it from 45 yards,” he said.
After the 46-yarder versus Macksville, Girk connected on a 44-yarder in a win versus Argonia-Attica in Week 9 that helped SC capture the district title. The T-Wolves have made the playoffs five straight years.
In 2017, SC finished third in eight-man with just 9.3 points permitted. The T-Wolves forced 31 turnovers and finished plus-20 in turnover margin. This season, Girk will play multiple roles, including kicker, punter, return specialist, wide receiver and cornerback for a team that returns three offensive and four defensive starters.
“A tradition, and we expect to make the playoffs now, it’s not a surprise when we make the playoffs,” Girk said. “It’s something we expect to do.”
Chet Kuplen of Sports in Kansas on Girk
We first became aware of him after his 46 yard field goal was sent into us last fall in a text message that we then put out and it went viral on social media. I think between Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, his video has over 60K views. It kind of put him on the map from a small town 8-man program that not a lot of people knew about to people knowing about him and who he is around the state. Programs, including Division I schools, had inquired about him through our twitter messages and wanted to see him at camps which he has been going to this summer, so it definitely reached some of the right people to showcase his talents. Not only did heput himself on the map with his leg last fall as a kicker but some of the punting videos we saw were outstanding as well, so he could really figure into a program to do both or any of the two if needed. Some 4A/3A programs in Kansas are lucky to have a kicker and you don't see many 8-man programs kicking a lot so this was awesome to see. We are looking for some big kicks this fall and hopefully a college will give this small town kid a shot. Sports in Kansas exists to make sure kids like this don't go unnoticed. Also... it's pretty scary that he's got two years left and already doing big kicks like this!!
Q&A w/ Girk
How did you get involved in football?
I started playing football about first grade, started playing flag football.
What are your goals this season?
I want to make a deep run in the playoffs, make it to the state championship and maybe win it, just build upon what we had last year
Do you guys have a shot to make a run this year?
I feel like we are one of the best teams in the state. We only lost about four people offense and defense, so most of our key players are returning.
What makes you such a force as a player?
I can make tackles, I am pretty fast.
What’s the atmosphere like to play football on Friday night for your school and town?
Football is a pretty big thing around here. We expect to make the playoffs, and everyone comes out and supports, especially around playoff time, more people come out.
For anyone that hasn’t seen one of your games, why come to one?
It’s a great time. Not many teams kick in eight-man, so that’s something.
Who are other key players on your team?
Running back Eli Jellison, senior running back and linebacker Ethan Jellison, (three-year starting QB) Chayde Snyder, and a few freshman that I think will come in and play quite a bit. (Lineman) Andrew Erickson.
Favorite thing about football?
I like to see the play develop, see what’s going to happen, try and guess what’s going to happen before the play even starts.
Do you play any other sports, tell us about that?
What is it like to play for your coach?
It’s different from any other coach you will ever play for. Puts in random stuff. He will change the offense the day before the game if he feels like that’s going to help us.
What did you and the team do in the off-season to become better and plans to get better this summer?
We went to Shattuck, Okla. two weeks ago for their team camp for three days and then we are lifting weights every morning at 5:45 to about 7, running and lifting.
What interest are you seeing at the next level and what are your plans?
“I am hoping I can go to a Division I, either Oklahoma State or K-State would be in my top picks, but really anyone I would be OK with.
Favorite thing to do when you aren’t playing sports?
I like to hang out with my friends, and talk with family, work with my dad.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Either still playing football somewhere, coaching, being a sports trainer or physical therapist, something still in sports somewhere.
Favorite subject in school, what type of student are you, GPA?
My GPA is 3.75 and my favorite subjects are probably english and history.
Who is your role model?
My role model is Tim Tebow. He’s a great person. … He wore the Bible verses underneath his eyes. I thought that was just really cool, and so in Pee-Wee, I would do that, and he’s always just been someone I’ve looked up to and tried to be like.”
Best place to eat in your town or the surrounding area?
Protection, the only place to eat is at Don’s, and then Coldwater I would say the best place to eat is Dave’s Pizza.
One thing the average person wouldn’t know about you?
Most people don’t know that I am actually diabetic. It doesn’t really change me that much. I just have to watch my blood sugar.
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