by Aaron Garcia
According to Porter Ridge football coach Blair Hardin, it didn’t take long for kicker Matt Wogan’s impact to be felt during a game, especially when the Pirates started games on defense.
“Whenever he kicked the ball off, you could see the other team just look up and say, ‘Here we go,’” Hardin said.
Wogan, just a sophomore, emerged this season as one of the state’s top special-teams threats. He launched 41 kicks into the end zone for touchbacks but also was adept at placing the ball between the sideline and the hashmark within the 5-yard line, forcing opponents to return the kick while also limiting their return lanes.
“At the same time,” said Wogan, “kicking it into the end zone is the best thing to do – 80 yards is a long way (for an offense) to go.”
Either way, Wogan was a huge weapon for Porter Ridge this season.
“I guess, in a sense, it gave our defense coming onto the field some momentum, it gave our defense a spark,” Hardin said. “That field position was absolutely huge for us this year.”
Wogan earned the starting role last season as a freshman and showed promise but made substantial strides in the offseason.
“He can boom it,” said Hardin. “He grew dramatically (as a kicker) this year, and he gained more confidence.”
It didn’t take long for Wogan’s improvement to show as he started the season with four touchbacks against Monroe, limiting perhaps the state’s top return man – Duke signee Jamison Crowder – to one attempt. Wogan then notched seven touchbacks against Piedmont and six against both Forest Hills and Marvin Ridge.
“After that first game, my confidence really grew,” Wogan said. “Then, I just kept it going. I kept working my butt off in practice, and it really paid off.”
But Wogan also was an offensive threat, booting eight field goals and converting 74 of his 76 extra-point attempts, which was tops in the state. For the season, Wogan scored 98 points, making him the top-scoring kicker in North Carolina, according to Maxpreps.com.
If that weren’t enough, Wogan added punting duties to his repertoire this season and thrived with an average of 44.6 yards per attempt, including a game-changer against Asheville’s A.C. Reynolds High in the third round of the state playoffs. Wogan pinned Reynolds’ punt returner inside the 5-yard line. The ball was fumbled, and the Pirates returned it for a score. He also added a field goal in the 24-21 win.
Par for the season, said Hardin, who has received feedback from schools such as Georgia and Notre Dame about Wogan’s ability.
“He was very consistent,” Hardin said. “We knew if he stayed consistent, it was only going to make our team better.”
And he did, usually by making the opposition’s job tougher, 80 yards at a time.