BILLINGS – Riley Garrett listens to the crowd.
The fans are his barometer for success or failure. And for Garrett’s position on the football field, silence is not golden.
“The crowd definitely tells you if you made it or missed it,” said the kicker for Rocky Mountain College.
Garrett heard plenty last Saturday in Havre with a record-setting performance in a 57-39 win over Montana State-Northern.
The junior from Northern California made a program-record five field goals of 32, 35, 32, 23 and 50 yards. The 50-yarder is a personal best.
“Fifty is kind of a goal,” said Garrett, who has made a 60-yard field goal in practice. “The first one (against Northern) was kind of a relief.”
The right-footed kicker also made all six PAT attempts and missed on attempts of 51 and 29 yards.
The five field goals got him tantalizing close to the NAIA national record.
Garrett found out on the bus ride back to Billings he had set the school record. Curious, he looked up the NAIA mark, finding out he was one shy.
“Two more and I would have had the record,” said Garrett. “I was kind of knocking myself for missing those other two. I’m very hard on myself. I want to be perfect every time out there.”
The single-game record is six, shared by four players. The most recent was Bryan Hilborn of Carroll College against Montana Western in 1993.
It took three games for Garrett to make his mark for the Battlin’ Bears. He earned the kicking job prior to the College of Idaho game on Sept. 28 but never left the sideline in a 42-0 loss.
The next week, he had misses of 37, 23 and 43 yards against Southern Oregon. Garrett missed the first attempt, “Literally by a hair,” he said and the second one was blocked.
“Against Southern Oregon, our protection was bad,” said Rocky coach Chris Stutzriem. “We went back, fixed a few things and it paid off.
“Our confidence never wavered in him. There was never a point where we didn’t believe in him. He’s got a good leg but it’s his consistency that is the difference. He doesn’t get too high or low.”
And there were some issues during the MSU-Northern game. Holder Lucas Overton, Rocky’s leading receiver, suffered a concussion and defensive back Ty Reynolds became responsible for putting the ball down properly after the second PAT attempt.
“Not many teams have backup holders,” Stutzriem said.
The long snapper is Jerome Miller.
“Ty and Jerome did a great job,” Garrett added.
For Garrett, success comes through routine.
“It’s just consistency,” he said. “Making the same movements every time. I use the same setup every time. I just kick with the same style every time. Out on the field, I get my steps, nod my head to the holder and let him know I’m ready to go.”
Garrett’s stretching is the same for every game as his series of warm-up drills. He will kick from both sides of the field and let the coaching staff know the yardage where he is comfortable kicking.
“You want to be as accurate as possible,” said Garrett of the bottom-line goal. “You can have the biggest leg but it doesn’t do you any good if you’re not accurate.”
Garrett is from Sonora, California, a community near Yosemite National Park. A soccer player most of his life, he suffered a broken arm as a sophomore in high school and his friends convinced him to try football.
He kicked for two seasons with Moorpark Junior College and signed with Rocky in June.
Garrett was already familiar with Montana having been to the state twice to travel with a friend.
Now he finds himself the center of attention on the football field.
“It’s kind of fun,” Garrett said of kicking. “Think about it, it’s just you out there. There is the snapper and the holder but 98 percent of it is you. Football is a team sport but out there, you’re kind of secluded.
“You can go out and make 9 of 10 but miss one and nobody cares about the rest. You’re the zero or the hero.”