Navy kicker Moehring wants to be re­mem­bered as 'the guy that never gave up'

The Capital - - SPORTS ON TV - By Kather­ine Fominykh [email protected] twit­ter.com/kat­fominykh

Ben­nett Moehring set­tled in for the kick.

It was freez­ing and pour­ing rain, his brother, Hay­den, re­mem­bered. The Ben­tonville Tigers were sup­posed to smoke Rogers Her­itage, but with 30 sec­onds to go, Ben­tonville was down by three points. They needed a hero.

Moehring's ball flew be­tween the posts to force over­time, and then it did again to cap­ture vic­tory.

That's the kind of thing Moehring thinks about when it's his turn on the field.

“You al­ways want to go out there and help your team,” he said. “It's my re­spon­si­bil­ity, no mat­ter what po­si­tion I'm put in, to make the kick.”

Moehring knows there's go­ing to be eyes on him at Lin­coln Fi­nan­cial Field on Satur­day. In con­di­tions not un­like those of that Arkansan fall night in 2014, Moehring's would-be go-ahead field goal at­tempt in last year's Army-Navy game flew wide and en­abled the Black Knights to es­cape with a 14-13 vic­tory over the Mid­ship­men.

It didn't help that Moehring was 48 yards away due to a pair of false start penal­ties against the Mids. But he didn't make it. Navy didn't win.

It is that kick Moehring's en­vi­sion­ing be­fore Satur­day's tilt, but it looks a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. In his mind, the ball ca­reens square be­tween the two posts.

“I'll make it this time. I have the ex­pe­ri­ence, I have the leg,” he said. “I'm ready to go. I hope the team can put me in the po­si­tion on Satur­day and let the cards fall where they may.”

At the mo­ment, it's a fan­tasy, but a kick is a kick to the se­nior. There isn't just one that will de­fine him.

In Septem­ber, Moehring kicked his way into pro­gram his­tory, boot­ing his 113th ca­reer ex­tra point to be­come Navy's all-time leader in that cat­e­gory. It was a fit­ting se­nior act for a ca­reer that had ex­ploded like a spark in dry brush.

Af­ter step­ping in to re­place se­nior DJ Grant-John­son in 2016 when the pro­jected start­ing kicker suf­fered a sea­son-end­ing in­jury, Moehring con­nected on 65 of 68 ex­tra point-at­tempts — a sin­gle-sea­son school record — and fin­ished the year with 89 points. He'd al­ready shown a solid leg, hit­ting a 40-yard field goal against Lou­i­si­ana Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl, which has noth­ing on his 48-yard boot against Tu­lane this Novem­ber.

He heads to Philadel­phia hav­ing sur­passed sto­ried kicker Steve Fehr (1979-1981) as Navy's all-time scor­ing kicker with 218 to­tal points.

“As a kicker, he's scored more points of any­one that's been here,” head coach Ken Ni­u­mat­alolo said. “Shows you the sig­nif­i­cance he's had in this pro­gram. He's had a phe­nom­e­nal ca­reer.”

Moehring doesn't flex his lau­rels, though. Want­ing to be the most approachable per­son in the locker room breeds hu­mil­ity.

“For me, it's a tes­ta­ment to the team as a whole,” he said. “Our of­fense has been down the field a lot of times… Re­ally it's just a mat­ter of them putting me in po­si­tion and me just do­ing my job.”

Abun­dant per­sonal suc­cess was to be ex­pected out of one of the most highly-re­cruited kick­ers of his class. Moehring fielded of­fers from Army, Tu­lane and Mas­sachusetts, as well as in­ter­est from schools like Cal­i­for­nia and SMU (a pe­riod his par­ents called “stress­ful”). Noted spe­cial­ist in­struc­tor Chris Sailer tabbed Moehring as the No. 1 place­kicker in the na­tion in the Class of 2015.

“He's al­ways had that in­ter­nal quiet but strong drive that other peo­ple rec­og­nize in him,” his mother Cindy said.

A clean kick in a big mo­ment had al­ways been in Moehring's wheel­house. Af­ter se­cur­ing the un­likely vic­tory against Rogers Her­itage, his 20-yard boot led Ben­tonville to the Class 7A state ti­tle.

There hadn't been a kick­ing spe­cial­ist at Ben­tonville be­fore Moehring, but his com­mit­ment to the po­si­tion earned him a lead­er­ship role which spanned from chang­ing a game's out­come to lead­ing the pre-game prayer.

“By the time Ben­nett was a se­nior, he had earned the re­spect of his team­mates,” said Hay­den Moehring, who'd fol­lowed in his brother's foot­steps to be­come a kicker at both Ben­tonville and at Navy. Un­for­tu­nately, a com­pli­ca­tion in his hip pre­vented him from ever tak­ing the field for the Mid­ship­men.

Un­like a lot of play­ers that wind up in a Di­vi­sion I foot­ball pro­gram, though, Moehring didn't find foot­ball un­til just be­fore high school. No one in his fam­ily had played the sport be­fore he did and Moehring had al­ways played soc­cer. Be­cause of that, he fig­ured his leg strength would suit him well if he just raised his aim a lit­tle bit.

“I think they first had him pegged as a quar­ter­back un­til one day when the coaches lit­er­ally asked the kids who wants to try kick­ing,” Cindy said. “Since he'd done soc­cer, he raised his hand.”

When he'd reached An­napo­lis, some things were still un­cer­tain. Moehring didn't play a sin­gle game his fresh­man sea­son, and on the cusp of his sopho­more year was still con­sid­ered the backup.

He doesn't dwell on what his ca­reer would have looked like had Grant-John­son not sat out the en­tire 2016 sea­son.

“Ev­ery­thing hap­pens for a rea­son,” Moehring said. “I was ready the mo­ment I stepped on cam­pus. I don't look back at 'what-ifs.' I more try to stay in the mo­ment and ready to go.”

In fact, he doesn't dwell on any­thing, in­clud­ing the missed kick against Army. Hay­den re­mem­bers his brother didn't cry at his locker and in­stead went to meet with the me­dia, “faced the mu­sic” and moved for­ward.

“Ben­nett made us in­cred­i­bly proud in how he han­dled it,” Barry Moehring said of his son.

Satur­day's fore­cast calls for a more for­giv­ing at­mos­phere than last year's blus­ter­ing wind and snow: zero-per­cent chance of pre­cip­i­ta­tion. A friendly sun. A light breeze.

If Moehring does find him­self in the same sit­u­a­tion Satur­day, Ni­u­mat­alolo is sure it'll fin­ish dif­fer­ently.

"He'll make it,” the coach said. “I have no doubt he'll make it.”

Whether Navy's up 45-6, down 28-7 or re­ly­ing on a fi­nal field-goal at­tempt at the buzzer, Moehring doesn't want his legacy to hinge on one mo­ment — not this year's, not last year's.

“I just want to be a guy that never gave up. Some­one that used ev­ery ex­pe­ri­ence to his ad­van­tage,” he said. “Some­one who held his head high.”

PAUL W. GILLE­SPIE / CAP­I­TAL GAZETTE

Navy kicker Ben­nett Moehring re­acts af­ter miss­ing his po­ten­tial go-ahead field goal against Army last sea­son in the 118th Army Navy Foot­ball Game at Lin­coln Fi­nan­cial Field in Philadel­phia.

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