Prep football: Hudspith is a jack-of-all-trades on special teams
The 6-foot-3-inch senior shines bright as the Eskomos' punter, kickoff specialist and placekicker.
ESKO — In the closing minutes of the 2021 Section 7AAA final, the Eskomos found themselves tied at 14-14 in a fourth down situation deep in Aitkin territory in search of the go-ahead score.
Rather than keep the offense on the field and go for it, the team turned to kicker Wyatt Hudspith to achieve its ultimate goal of a state tournament berth.
Under the lights of Malosky Stadium at UMD, Hudspith admitted the pressure was on, especially with the added layer of difficulty kicking through the more narrow goalposts on the college field.
“It was very nerve racking,” Hudspith said of his game-winning kick. "…I just told myself that I was in practice and that I wasn’t in a tough situation right now knowing I needed to score the points.”
Through nine games this season, Hudspith hasn’t had to replicate his pressure-packed field goal attempt, but that hasn’t stopped him from making a seismic impact on special teams, in addition to his roles as defensive end and offensive tackle.
In his 39 extra-point attempts over the course of the regular season, Hudspith has booted 36 through the uprights for a 92% success rate. At practices, Hudspith, a multi-sport athlete who also excels in throwing events in track and field, said he has nailed kicks of 52 and 55 yards, respectively, on his own and with the entire field goal unit.
According to Hudspith, raw power plays a small role in his overall success as a kicker. However, he likened the discipline and technique required for throwing events as the most crucial aspect in the art of kicking.
“What I like about throwing and kicking is that it’s not all about strength,” Hudspith said of his experience kicking since eighth grade. “I out-throw some people that lift way more than me because I have that spin technique and they just do a glide technique. With kicking, if you just have a super strong leg, the chances of you kicking it right down the middle are pretty slim if you’re just going to boot it as hard as you can.”
“It’s that balance between technique and strength that I kind of strive for in this sport,” he added.
On ensuing kickoffs, Hudspith routinely leaves would-be returners looking to the sky above as the ball sails over their heads and into the end zone for a touchback.
The tall task of having to drive 80 yards on one of the state’s most stout defenses is a challenge no team has been able to meet.
"Being able to pin them back just complements our defense really well," Esko assistant coach Ben Haugen said.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Eskomos have managed to drive the length of the field on nearly every possession this season, leaving opportunities for Hudspith to hone his punting skills few and far between. He has punted only six times in eight regular season games.
Still, as the postseason rolls on and the battle for every yard becomes magnified, the punting unit is ready to take the field.
“We do put an emphasis on it, even though we haven’t had to punt a whole lot this year. We’re still practicing it,” Haugen said. “We’re still thinking about it, so it’ll be a focal point here come playoff time.”
The Eskomos remain one game away from a return to Malosky Stadium with Two Harbors standing in the way of a repeat appearance in the Section 7AAA final. Hudspith and the special teams units as a whole remain ready for what comes their way as the stakes rise in a win-or-go home scenario.
“Sometimes (the game) can come down to one special teams play,” Haugen said.