Las Vegas Sun

September 21, 2019

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Kohorst’s foot covers sloppy offense for Green Valley

Green Valley at Coronado

Cydney Cappello

The Green Valley Gators celebrate the third quarter touchdown that put them ahead of the Cougars, 18-8.

Green Valley at Coronado

At the tailgate party before Coronado High School's homecoming game against rival Green Valley, senior Steve Salgado hits a car painted with anti-Gator slogans with a sledgehammer. Launch slideshow »

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That chance encounter two summers ago between Green Valley football coach Matt Gerber and Nolan Kohorst paid its biggest dividends yet Friday night.

See, quality place kickers are about the toughest thing for a prep coach to find. Not just in Southern Nevada, but anywhere. That makes Kohorst quite the commodity.

The junior hit a career-long 51-yard field goal just before halftime, then did himself one better with a 54-yarder late in the fourth quarter as the Gators won their second straight, spoiling Coronado's homecoming festivities with a 21-15 win.

He almost had another distance shot between those two, missing a 53-yarder by mere inches. His long-range proficiency helped mask an otherwise sloppy night for the Gators, who turned the ball over seven times and had to rely on several stingy defensive stands.

"The difference in games is your special teams," Gerber said. "To have a kid like this, it certainly is an advantage. Even if he misses those, they've got to start at the 20-yard line (per NIAA rule). So it's a weapon to know you have somebody who you can just line up at a 50-yarder and just attempt it."

Gerber first noticed Kohorst the summer following the kicker's freshman year, when he was messing around and canned a 35-yard field goal at the school with his brother holding the ball.

"He just said, 'Hey, you want to play varsity football?'" he recalled.

Just like that, he gave up soccer -- which he'd played since age 6 -- and now is drawing the attention of college coaches. The lone Division I program to contact him so far is Boise State, but the mail load heading to his household is sure to pick up should performances like Friday's prove consistent. He had the aide of a nice breeze at his back and took advantage of it in every way possible, even putting multiple kickoffs out of the end zone.

"It's all about the offense and defense, and the special teams just helps out. Without them, I can't do anything," Kohorst said. "There aren't many kickers out in Nevada, and it's just different being able to be a kicker on this team."

His first connection came with the game tied, 8-8, as time expired in the second quarter. At that point, Green Valley felt fortunate the game was that close.

Coronado's first score came on a 15-yard Kenny Lawrence run, just three plays after the Gators fumbled away the game's opening kickoff. From there, Green Valley quarterback Nick Libonati was picked off on two of his first four pass attempts, and his team managed to lose two more fumbles -- before the end of the first quarter.

"I've been associated with football coaching for 15 years now, and I don't think I've ever been associated with a game where I've had seven turnovers ... and, mind you, won somehow," Green Valley coach Matt Gerber said. "Our defense kept us in, and I've got to give credit to them, because most teams, you have seven (turnovers) and it's over. Our defense stepped up tonight, especially in the first quarter."

The Gators' only major separation on the scoreboard came early in the second half, when Derrick Stevens sprinted 76 yards down the seam for a score to put them up 18-8.

But, again, tricky twists kept that lead from growing. Libonati's third interception came on a ball thrown low to Chris Bowman that shot up off the tight end's knee and into a Coronado defender's arms. The toughest one to swallow, though, was a low punt snap on fourth down to Stevens, who had to crouch to grab the ball, and touched his knee to the ground once he caught it. It gave possession to the Cougars, who pushed Marcus Garcia into the end zone from a yard out to make it a three-point game at 18-15.

The Gators held court there, though, as Libonati continually found Kyle Larimer to keep drives going, and the defense made a big final stand as time expired, swatting down a Dane Cooper heave from 30 yards out, which was an attempt at the tying score.

And if you think Gerber's relieved to come away with a win after watching his team give possession away seven times, imagine how hard it is to swallow on the other end of the spectrum. Coronado finished with just 137 yards of total offense, scoring on just two of the Gators' seven cough-ups.

"We just can't seem to stop making mistakes," coach John Mannion said. "You've got control of a football game and you give the thing away just by making little mistakes. It's frustrating, it really is.

"That's wicked, man," Mannion added of Kohorst. "You get across the 50-yard line with that wind and with his leg, and you're a valuable option right there. And they made good use of it."

The Cougars, 2-3 and on the short end in three straight, now hit the meat of their league schedule, starting with Silverado next week. The 3-2 Gators take on Canyon Springs before facing a three-week stretch including Liberty, Del Sol and Silverado.

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