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December 3, 2011
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With three minutes to go in the first quarter of Friday night's playoff game against Pace (Fla.), Cove (Fla.), St. Johns (Fla.) Bartram Trail trailed 16-0. A quarter later, the Bears had pulled to 16-14, just a field goal away from taking the lead.
Enter Cole Leininger. The big-legged dual-threat kicker hammered home a 46-yarder to give Bartram Trail the lead -- one it would not relinquish, en route to a 34-24 win.
Not a bad way to celebrate his commitment to Bears of a different color. Leininger committed to play for California earlier this week, after receiving a scholarship offer following a practice observed by special teams coordinator Jeff Genyk the week after Thanksgiving, Bartram Trail head coach Darrell Sutherland said on Saturday.
"He's done great," Sutherland said. "He's kicked the game-winner a week ago, and had a couple of punts where he just totally flipped the field for us, and then, the same thing last night. He's been kicking touchbacks for us, and he hit a field goal for us last night. He's just done a great job."
While Leininger's kick on Friday night gave the Bears the lead, his kick one week ago was even more clutch.
"The one that he hit a week ago was as time ran out, to win the game," Sutherland said.
According to Chris Sailer, Leininger is "perhaps the best combo prospect" in the 2012 class, with a 45.13-yard punting average, and while Cal initially was looking at Leininger as a punter, the Bears might think twice about having him succeed Giorgio Tavecchio in placekicking duties.
"We do some things where we place him around and do some different things, but for the most part, when we've asked him to kick it in the end zone, he does," Sutherland said.
Of his 77 kickoffs, Leininger has put 54 in the end zone, averaging 59.44 yards per drive.
"I know that he's a multi-talented young man, so I'm sure that would be appealing to anyone -- the idea that he's obviously a really good punter, but that he's also pretty accomplished as a field goal and kickoff guy too," Sutherland said. "He's a fantastic young man.
"He's a really, really solid student. Cal's a great fit for him. He's not just very gifted, academically, but he's also a really hard worker, so I think he's just off the charts."