Placekicking is one of the more stressful jobs in all of sports. Players get one opportunity, barring penalties, to blast an egg-shaped projectile through the air and between two upright posts. A miss may mean the difference between a slim win or a loss.
Just like there’s no pressure for the Bret Harte High School football team when it travels to North Highlands for a game against the Highland Scots (2-0) Friday. A win would mean a rare 3-0 start to the season for the Bullfrogs.
Part of that strong start for Bret Harte has been the performance of junior kicker Ryan Crawford, a soccer player who had never played football prior to this season.
“I actually enjoy the pressure,” said Crawford. “The first time I went out there it was pretty scary, but I think I’ve gotten used to it. I have great teammates and coaches.
“I think I’ve dealt with (learning kicking) well and coach (Bob) Beeding has been very helpful. He’ll say something if he needs to, but mostly he just watches my kicks for form and approach.”
Typically, football coaches look toward players of the other “futbol” (the Spanish word for soccer) when their teams need kickers. It’s a tactic that’s been beaten into the minds of coaches across the country.
Need a kicker? Talk to the soccer players.
For the Bullfrogs, that meant convincing longtime soccer player Crawford to join the team for the 2016 season.
“I got a call from coach Kraft over the summer letting me know that the team was looking for a kicker and they offered me the chance to come out,” said Crawford. “I’ve always wanted to give football a shot.”
This year, the high school soccer season will be played in winter – as opposed to fall last year – which opened the door for Crawford to try his hand at football for the first time. The learning curve has been sharp for Crawford, who’s had to learn a completely different way to kick a different ball shape.
Bret Harte head football coach Casey Kester said that when Crawford first came out to practice, it was clear he would need a lot of work. Lucky for the Bullfrogs and Kester, Crawford took on the challenge with a full head of steam.
“When he came out, it wasn’t very good.” said Kester. “But he’s made great strides in picking up the football and now we’re working on getting him a few designed plays here or there.”
Rugby and football are widely recognized as contact sports. Less known is that soccer has some of the highest contact rates of any sport on high school campuses, although a completely different form of contact.
Crawford got his first taste of a high-speed football collision after launching a kickoff following a Bret Harte touchdown in last week’s 27-6 win over Golden Sierra.
“I actually got hit pretty good in the last game,” said Crawford. “There’s certainly contact with soccer, but it’s not quite the same degree.”