Photo Army Athletics, Danny Wild/USA Today: Army kicker Quinn Maretzki follows his kick through the uprights in the fog hanging over Michie Stadium.
By TOM SHANAHAN
The Saturday morning sunrise over Diamondhead was still only midway to high noon, but just about anyone in Hawaii attuned to Punahou School and college football had rubbed their eyes clear.
They eagerly awaited kickoff for the 121st Army-Navy Game, 10 a.m. Hawaii/Aleutian time, 3 p.m. Eastern. Army freshman kicker Quinn Maretzki, a Punahou alumnus, was playing his second game as the No. 1 place-kicker 4,960 miles away on The Plain, the West Point campus in New York.
Maretzki didn’t disappoint his early-rising fans in Hawaii — or elsewhere around the world where soldiers were stationed and watching at all hours. He drilled a 37-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter. The fog enveloping Michie Stadium clouded the view, but he felt at home and his kick was on target.
“I was so excited before the game,” Maretzki said. “That’s what you come here for – the Army-Navy Game. Hitting that field goal got me pumped up. It felt good, it felt great hitting it through.”
For most of the game’s defensive struggle, his score looked like it might be the only points in a rivalry game that Army head coach Jeff Monken described as a “bare-knuckles brawl.” But after Army stopped a Navy on downs at the goal line, early in the third quarter, the Black Knights scored 12 fourth-quarter points in a 15-0 victory.
Maretzki added an extra-point kick after the game’s only touchdown for 10-0 lead. Next, following Army scoring on a safety, he tacked on a 40-yard field goal to close the scoring with 2:20 remaining.
“It was super emotional for everyone,” said Eric Hannum, a Punahou assistant coach and former University of Hawaii kicker. “His parents (Mark and Erin) are Punahou teachers. Everyone on the community knows him as a hard-working and humble kid.”
It seemed a perfect day – except for Maretzki’s own self-critique. Late in the second quarter, Army had a chance to take a 6-0 lead when he lined up for a 38-yard field goal. But a bobbled snap led to him stopping his approach, resetting and trying to connect with just one step. He managed to kick it long enough, but the ball drifted left.
“I should have made it,” he said. “That’s part of my warmups – one steps and then I go to my full field goal steps. I’ve hit those one-steps so many times before, I definitely should have made it.”
Hannum said that type preparation was typical of Maretzki’s work ethic at Punahou. He worked on his leg swing as meticulously as a golfer on the driving range.
“He had the discipline to get up early and practice kicking in the morning by himself when no one was watching,” Hannum said. “He’s disciplined. That’s why he got into West Point.”
Maretzki was far from home, but Hawaiians – he says his German blood-based surname is mixed with Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Irish and Native American — in the Army-Navy Game aren’t unusual. Future officers in the Army, Navy and Air Force come from all over the country, and Hawaii contributes plenty to the three teams competing in the round-robin series for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.
But this year, for the first time, the C-i-C concludes with Air Force (3-2) and Army (8-2) playing a winner-take-all game.
Air Force defeated Navy 40-7 on Oct. 3 in Colorado Springs, but the Falcons’ game at Army that was scheduled for Nov. 7 had to be postponed due to Air Force COVID-19 testing results. The game is finally on for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday at West Point – another 10 a.m. college football “afternoon” in Hawaii.
Maretzki’s performance was also timely for Hawaii kickers contributing to college football. Among the congratulatory texts Maretzki received were those from Punahou alums Ka’imi Fairbairn, the Houston Texans’ kicker by way of UCLA; Jet Toner, Stanford’s senior kicker; and Tim Horn, a Washington sophomore who handles kickoff duties.
“They’ve taught me a lot,” Maretzki said. “We don’t have kicking camps in Hawaii, so we all learn from each other. Ka’imi passed it on to Jet and Jet to Tim and Tim to me. It’s been great having those guys as resources.”
Horn, it turned out, helped simply by drawing Army recruiting interest his senior year as Punahou’s kicker. Maretzki, as a junior backup kicker, thus didn’t have film for recruiters entering hiis senior year. However, he had met Army assistant coach Sean Saturnio while he tried to recruit Horn.
Maretzki was on a trip visiting schools in the Northeast when he realized he was close to West Point. He contacted Saturnio asking if he could stop by for a visit.
“When I saw the campus, I realized how amazing was West Point,” he said. “I saw what a great opportunity it was and how it would set me up for the future. The issue for me was I didn’t have any film.”
But once Punahou’s 2019 season began Maretzki converted field goals and PATS. He sent Saturnio the video and eventually an offer he coveted was extended.
His journey was just beginning, but sooner than expected, the kid from Hawaii was lining up as a freshman, taking over the No. 1 place-kicking role in Army’s previous game. He hit all four PATs in the 28-27 win over Georgia South and held the job through practice for the Army-Navy Game.
And on that early Hawaii mid-morning college football “afternoon,” the CBS national telecast ratings received a bump from paradise.
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