Dawson Odums looked to his bench for a moment before waving for Martell Fontenot to come over.
Southern was about to kick a 42-yard field goal against rival Jackson State.
The distance typically dictated for Cesar Barajas to make the try because of his stronger leg.
The more accurate Fontenot favors shorter distances.
“What do you think?” Odums asked Fontenot.
“I can make it,” Fontenot replied.
“Well, go kick it," Odums said.
Fontenot is one of the last remaining pieces the Jaguars have to figure out as they contend for a SWAC title.
With the offense coming around under quarterback Ladarius Skelton, the defense playing as well as it ever has in recent memory and the punting and return specialists doing what they do best, all that’s left to develop is a consistent kicking game.
If the Jaguars can make field goals starting inside the 30-yard line, Odums said little can stand in Southern’s way toward the program’s first conference title since 2013.
Through his first eight games, Fontenot is 4 of 6 on field goals. He’s also 12 for 12 on extra points during Southern’s three-game win streak.
But it's the prospect of what he can do in the future with his confidence at an all-time high that's most exciting for Southern.
“It gives him a vote of confidence,” Odums said of the kick against JSU. “That’s part of the wizardry you have to have as a coach. You have to have dialogue. His confidence is going through the roof. Our PATs have been pretty consistent.”
Fontenot’s arrival at Southern was never filled with many turns or twists. He didn’t even need to leave his hometown.
The former Zachary High player grew up a few miles north of the Bluff. He started as a soccer player before his older brother convinced him to go out for the football team as a freshman.
Brewerton instantly saw the raw power behind Fontenot’s foot, making him a four-year starter for the Broncos.
During his high school career, Fontenot was a fixture of the Broncos' success as the punter, place-kicker and kickoff specialist. He was part of Zachary’s 2015 and 2017 Class 5A state championships and was named the 2017 composite All-State kicker.
He did not miss a single extra point as a senior.
“It changes the way you manage the game as a head coach and it changes the way you call plays as a coordinator,” Zachary coach David Brewerton said. “We felt like, if we reach the 30-yard line, we’re getting points no matter what. We had to make sure, when we got to that point, we aren't taking any losses or big chances down field because you don’t want to get out of field goal range. Him coming in, we knew he could make those kicks from that yardage.”
Fontenot’s range isn’t overly impressive. Odums estimates he’s be confident from about 42 to 44 yards out.
Barajas can boom the ball much farther, closer to 54 yards, but is much less accurate. He is 1 of 5 on field goals this season, leaving him to handle primarily punting and kickoff duties where he’s one of the most effective in the conference.
But in a league like the SWAC, where only one kicker has hit from more than 50 yards out in Grambling's Marc Orozco, the need for consistency is a higher priority.
“Being consistent from 30 and below is all we ask them to do,” Odums said. “Forty or more, I know the chances go down.
“I have to look as his demeanor, check him out before the game and see how he’s kicking during warmups and see which way the wind is blowing. ... Probably 44, 43, 42 is a good range for him.”
That mentality is identical to what he was asked to do at Zachary.
From his first day on varsity, Brewerton put a lot of pressure on Fontenot in both games and practice. Without a true kicking coach, the responsibility of preparing Fontenot fell to the entire staff to distract him by any means necessary.
Southern takes a similar approach with the intense Odums coaching kickers and punter.
At first, Brewerton said the young Fontenot didn’t like the high-pressure training he received as a freshman or sophomore. But by his senior season, he thrived in those same spots.
While the Broncos didn’t need him too often in 2017, Fontenot made three field goals in a semifinal matchup against West Monroe that gave Zachary a 29-27 upset win on the road.
Fontenot provided what became the game-winning points on a 40-yard field goal with less than two minutes to play.
Southern is hopeful history repeats itself in the coming weeks.
“As he got older, it really started to challenge him from a mental standpoint and he kind of took it as a challenge on a daily basis,” Brewerton said. “He got really good at blocking out the noise and was clutch for us down the stretch.”