In his last game, St. Michael the Archangel senior A.J. Fletcher had 12 tackles, kicked a 48-yard field goal and scored his first varsity touchdown with a 1-yard run in a 23-14 victory over Loranger.
The modest Fletcher said he’s had better games. He had a school-record 26 tackles against Broadmoor as a sophomore and kicked a career-long 50-yard field goal this season. He made five of six field goals as a junior with a long of 46 yards.
Fletcher’s versatility, along with the play of 20 other seniors, are a big reason the Warriors are 4-0 heading into their Friday game at Olympia Stadium against Jewel Sumner (3-1).
Fletcher started at middle linebacker as a 5-foot-9, 165-pound freshman. He’s added 40 pounds of muscle since then with a 500-pound squat and 315-pound bench press.
“I knew A.J. was a special kid when he was a freshman,” said St. Michael coach Paul Varnado, who was defensive coordinator that season. “He was a catalyst then. He has a talent of dodging blocks and finding a way to get the tackle.
“As time has progressed, teams are scheming to run away from him or blocking him a certain way. I think he judges his performance based on defense.”
Fletcher has 57 tackles, including 17 vs. Live Oak, in four games. As a junior, his 168 tackles set a school record. He had 140 tackles as a sophomore.
“I enjoy playing middle linebacker and getting everybody lined up,” Fletcher said. “We knew our team was going to be better this season. We’ve made some big plays as a unit on defense and haven’t given up a rushing touchdown yet. Kyle Buvens has played great as the other inside linebacker.”
St. Michael has two come-from-behind wins and has held its foes to just 37 points.
“We play an attacking defense,” Varnado said. “I knew we had potential to do a lot of good things. Offensively this year we’re much better. We’re helping out the defense. Our kicking game is huge with A.J. as a place-kicker and Chris Reid at punter.”
Reid has a school-record 71-yard punt.
Fletcher also plays some fullback and is a powerful blocker.
Fletcher has a strong kicking leg from years of playing soccer. He was an All-Metro soccer player as a junior forward and has scored 37 goals with 33 assists the past two seasons.
His dad Paul Fletcher is the St. Michael soccer coach and an assistant football coach. Paul Fletcher lets Varnado know if his son should attempt field goals.
“How much he plays on defense is a factor in our decision to go for a field goal,” Varnado said. “He’s always had a strong leg. We’re excited he’s with us. He’s always able to perform at a high level.”
Fletcher said he has good chemistry with snapper Jacob Loupe and holder Matthew Butler.
“I think playing both sports has really helped my footwork,” said Fletcher, a two-time all-district linebacker and a three-time all-district soccer player. “I’ve always had quick feet. I’m getting better at my reads in both sports.”