The Wylie Pirates strive to gain an edge on special teams, and they feel they have that edge with one of the best kickers in District 9-6A.
Braden Gilbert leads the Wylie special teams, taking over as the full-time kicker and punter. He made all eight of his point-after attempts from last season, along with two field goals with a long of 41 yards. For head coach Jimmy Carter, he’s seen a lot of development from his senior kicker.
“Braden has had a really good summer, attending camps all over the country,” Carter said. “Between him and two solid JV kids we’ve got a good line of kickers and are excited about the pipeline at the position.”
Gilbert has continued to develop this offseason and after splitting time with Jordan Rubaclava last season is the only kicker on the Pirates varsity team. With a full offseason of training under his belt, coach Carter said he trusts his kicker from 40-45 yards and potentially beyond if the conditions make it reasonable.
“He’s really built up his leg strength and just overall has developed a really good knowledge of the kicking game,” Carter said. “He’s a soccer kid so he has the background and knows how to put the ball exactly where he wants it.”
A new area for Gilbert this season on special teams is working as a punter. Tight end Cole Hatzenbuehler was the team’s primary punter in 2021 but has since graduated.
In recent years, Wylie has been one of the more aggressive teams on special teams, typically going for fake punt attempts and trying to gain a free first down. Even with a kicking specialist at the punter position, Carter doesn’t see the team changing its tone on the field.
“It’s still going to be more of the same,” Carter said. “Braden is a very athletic kid so if we need him to make a play with his legs we really believe he could do that. If he played the field for us he’d probably be at receiver or linebacker for us. You never know.”
The Pirates want to continue to be aggressive, and even think their strategy can keep them on the front foot and put the points in their favor.
“It’s kind of like being an offensive or defensive coach, we’re going to take advantage of any areas of the field we feel like we can capitalize on,” Carter said. “If we can gain an advantage, we’re going to go all out to block a kick, try a fake, kick onsides and do whatever it takes to help us win.”