STEELE CREEK — Local fans cheered toward their televisions watching a Steele Creek punter in the last seconds of the game 2,400 miles away in Pasadena, Calif., at Rose Bowl Stadium, as Florida State Seminoles stole the national title from the Auburn Tigers.
Florida State scored late to earn the 34-31 win Jan. 6, earning a championship ring for former Olympic High School standout Cason Beatty. Beatty punted six times for nearly 43 yards a pop in the game, with a long of 55 yards and one kick downed inside the Auburn 20 yard line. He also held the ball for two field goals and four extra point attempts, all made by kicker Roberto Aguayo.
But Beatty’s biggest contribution may have been the time he didn’t punt. With the Seminoles teetering late in the first half down 21-3 at their own 40 yard line, the punt team took the field. They faked, running an end-around for seven yards and extending the drive that ended in Florida’s first touchdown.
Beatty also had one punt nullified when an Auburn player ran into him as he kicked, drawing a roughing the kicker penalty to extend a first quarter drive.
“I told him when they ran into him I expected to see him rolling on the ground where they’d have to cart him off,” joked high school head coach Barry Shuford.
Shuford coached Beatty four years at Olympic, where Shuford remains as a counselor after stepping down as head football coach in December. The Seminole win now gives Shuford a former student with a national championship ring, World Series ring and Super Bowl ring.
“Just been around a long time, I guess,” Shuford said.
The coach watched his former quarterback and punter at home, but texted with him afterward.
“I’m so proud of that kid,” Shuford said. “He’s such a good kid – super person, super kid, great family.”
Perhaps no one in the area wanted to see Beatty punting in Pasadena more than Fort Mill resident Don Tankersley, who is an Auburn alum. Beatty could’ve punted every other snap and it been fine with Tankersley, who knew the punter caught on at Florida State but wasn’t expecting to hear his name during the championship.
“I didn’t realize he was a starter until last night,” Tankersley said Tuesday morning.
The name rang familiar since his son, Ryan, and Beatty played together as 10-year-olds with the Steele Creek Seahawks. The connection didn’t change any rooting interests for the game. It did, along with the improbability of Auburn making it so far after a losing season in 2012, leave the Tiger fan with a silver lining following a near-championship season.
“I’m glad the kid got to play for the national championship,” Tankersley said.
Charles Beatty spent the following afternoon stuck in Arizona after celebrating his son’s big game. The family had a dozen people sitting about 30 rows back of the first punt, a short snap to the back of the Seminole end zone.
“I just wanted him to get it off,” Beatty said.
Charles Beatty is a financial planner who coached Olympic football as a volunteer. Angela, Cason’s mom, teaches at Olympic. The family lives about a mile from Lake Wylie, but the California trip was anything but smooth sailing.
“It was certainly nerve-wracking,” Charles Beatty said. “There were 100,000 people there. The weather was perfect. To be there was just kind of surreal. We weren’t sure if it was real or a dream.”
Cason Beatty is one of three children, all current or committed college athletes. His dad says it isn’t the norm cheering for a punter, since most teams do everything they can to avoid having to punt the ball.
“We just really want him to help the team when he’s needed,” Charles Beatty said last week, “and that’s what he did last night.”
John Marks • 803-831-8166