Allton’s clutch kicks kept Oilers in the game early on

UNIVERSITY OF FINDLAY defensive back Chiebuka Chukwuneke intercepts a pass at the 1-yard line as Shepherd University was driving for a potential go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter of Saturday’s NCAA Division II Super Region I first-round playoff game in Shepherdstown, W.Va. (Photo provided by John and Pam Boyle)

By ANDY WOLF
STAFF WRITER
SHEPHERDSTOWN, W. Va. — You’ve just got to know Jake Allton.
So says University of Findlay football coach Rob Keys.
“He has ice water in his veins,” he said.
Allton, a junior wide receiver turned kicker only a few weeks ago, drilled all three of his field goal attempts Saturday to help the Oilers upset No. 2 Shepherd 29-17 in the NCAA Division II Super Region I playoff opener.
Allton didn’t have any late-moment kicks, nailing all three in the first half. But the atmosphere of a road playoff game could rattle even the most experienced of kickers.
And Allton was far from game-proven in a collegiate setting.
As a kicker at Ashland High School, Keys joked Allton’s “target line” was the 5-yard line.
At the same time, he was entirely serious.
Allton took over the extra point duties in Week 9 and went 18 for 18 in the final three weeks.
His only regular season field goal try was a 22-yard make.
“Today we were outside that range but he made them,” Keys said.
Allton came through at a time when the offense needed him to score points.
The Oilers moved the ball with ease but locked up when reaching the red zone.
Each kick got farther than the next one, as Allton hit from 30, 32 and 36 yards out.
The left-footed Allton eventually accounted for all nine of UF’s points as the Oilers trailed 17-9 at halftime.
His first one put UF on the board first on its opening drive.
“After that first one, you kind of just settle in,” Allton said. “I’ve been kicking a lot of extra points.
“I kicked a field goal before but it was like 13 yards (22-yarder).
“After you kick a field goal, you get in the zone. It did kind of help a little.”
With some added confidence, Allton boomed another one through from 32 yards out to pull UF within 7-6 in the final seconds of the first quarter.
His long kick of 36 yards came late in the second quarter — he didn’t even know how long it was.
“I’ve usually been making them consistently inside the 15,” Allton said. “Coach only said I was the short, consistent kicker. Every now and then when we get past the 15, it’s a bit shaky. But I drilled them today.”
His day was done as a kicker afterwards as UF went for two-point conversions after all three of their second-half touchdowns.
“It’s funny. Confidence is built by success,” Keys said. “The players that are successful, the ones I have confidence in, I have confidence in Jake Allton to make anything and he made some really clutch kicks.”
Allton was quick to credit the quality snaps and holds by his teammates Matthew Reibley and Jacob Boucher, respectively.
It all goes back to the old adage of keeping an eye on the ball.
“Usually the snaps are always good, the holds are always good,” Allton said. “If I don’t hit the ball real right, it’s usually my fault all the time.”
Chris Demler and Grant Loveridge (Riverdale) shared kicking duties to start the season but each missed three extra points.
Demler saw most of the attempts at 35 of 38, compared to Loveridge at 12 of 15.
Keys turned to Allton to right the situation.
Allton is third on the team with 23 catches (283 yards) with eight multi-reception games. He was often asked to make the tough catch over the middle or haul in a clutch third-down grab.
“He’s one of those kids that if you ask him to do something, he’s going to produce” Keys said. “It was not an easy decision, but we struggled making XPs this year.”
UF’s team mantra is “do your job.”
“Everybody did every job to the fullest. It was awesome,” Allton said.
Wolf, 419-427-8496,
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