NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State football team covers the entire spectrum of stability when it comes to its specialists.
The Demons have an established punter in senior Parker Pastorello, who enters his third season as the starter at that position. On the other end of the expanse are a pair of kickers – junior transfer Daniel Justino and true freshman Scotty Roblow -- who have not taken an extra point or field goal try in collegiate action.
Somewhere in between are snappers Dustin Burns, McKane Kinchen and Evan Gibson, who have varying levels of experience and production.
“You’ve heard me talk a lot about consistency, and we have the ability to be consistent at that spot (punter) with a guy who will be a three-year starter in this league,” second-year head coach Brad Laird said. “He has produced, not only as a punter but also as a holder. He’s the veteran of that group. He brings another dimension to that room and to the practice field.”
Pastorello, a Mandeville High School product, averaged a career-best 40.4 yards per punt in his junior season. He dropped 24 of his 68 punts inside the 20, continuing a trend that began in 2017 when he settled 16 of his 53 punts inside the 20.
A 5-foot-11 senior, Pastorello had 13 punts of 50 or more yards a season ago.
“With coach (Mike) Lucas, our operation time and scheme helped a lot,” Pastorello said. “That helped my average a little more. The team we put on the field as unit, we did a lot better, which motivated me to do better. Every year, I want to improve.”
Having Pastorello back for his final season can give Laird a chance to feel more at ease when the punting unit is on the field.
When it is time for field goals or extra points, that may change. Justino, a right-footed transfer from the University of Florida, and Roblow, a left-footed freshman from Shreveport’s Byrd High School, spent the two-plus weeks of fall camp competing to replace Austyn Fendrick, who went 5-for-12 on field goals a season ago.
The competition was too close to call at the conclusion of fall camp, leaving a few more practices before the Aug. 29 opener at UT Martin for Laird and his staff to settle on a kicker.
“They’ll continue to battle,” Laird said. “The biggest thing is consistency. We have to be able to count on those three points. When we have opportunities to get points, we have to get them.”
Pastorello has a bit of a unique relationship with the NSU deep snappers as he serves as both the punter and the holder on place kicks.
Both returners Burns and Kinchen saw time at the position in 2018 while Gibson redshirted. However, in camp, it was Gibson who caught Laird’s eye.
“(Burns and Gibson) have been working it, while McKane Kinchen has been injured,” Laird said. “Evan has probably been the most consistent in the first couple of weeks.”
Pastorello said he sees the competition as a symbiotic relationship for the snappers.
“This is the second year I’ve worked with Evan, and he’s doing a really good job,” Pastorello said. “We’re working to the operation time correct. Dustin hasn’t had as many reps, because he’s a starting offensive lineman. They’re learning from each other, which will help us all.”
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