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Just a Kick Away
Alex glanced at the clock and noticed the long day of school was coming to an end. All around the room students began to file away their laptops along with their notebook and folders.
The teacher began to give instructions on what tonights homework would be, “Don’t forget that you must brush up on the vocabulary for tomorrow’s quiz”
Alex proceeded to gather his own notebooks and stuff them into his backpack, Ringggggg. The school day was officially over and most students made their way to the buses. Alex lifted up his black Under Armour backup and continued out of the class and across the hallway. There he was met with two double doors with the courtyard just beyond them. He entered the courtyard which had just received new beautiful yellow Marigolds. At the end of the cement walkway was another set of doors that led directly into 900’s wing of the high school. The hallway was part of the original grounds of the school, making most of the rooms outdated by a significant amount of years. Along the wall displayed murals, in which past students had painted. Alex continued to the end of the hallway, until he came to the last door on the right. This was the team locker room that hosted both football and lacrosse. He continued down the deteriorating hallway until he reached the football locker room. Alex came to his locker and opened up the small storage container underneath. The locker was small as the high school locker room had to account for over sixty athletes. Alex had just enough space to slip into so he could sit atop the storage beneath him.
“What's up Alex?” said Ingy a lifetime friend of Alex since grade school.
“Not much, you?”
“Not much? It’s football season baby, get hyped,” proclaimed Ingy jumping up and down.
Alex got up and opened the small cubby above his locker and took out his equipment. He undressed to his boxer briefs, then proceeded to put on his Nike gertile. He tried to put on the padded pants but the padding had slipped out and he had to fiddle with it to get it back into the slots. Head Coach Gibbs entered the room holding the game plan for the week in his hand. Coach Gibbs began to draw on the white board with a black EXPO explaining certain movements for each individual position group. Alex continued to get dressing lacing up his pristine white Adidas cleats. He then grabbed his phone and began scrolling through his Instagram feed.
“Hey aren’t you going to pay attention for the game plan this week?” asked Ingy.
“You know this never applies to me, so what's the point?” replied Alex putting away his phone and grabbing his helmet.
Just as he was grabbing his helmet the meeting for the day had come to a close. The players began to file out of the room and down the stairs to the turf field. The clacking of cleats and clicking of helmet buttons echoed throughout the room. Each player jogged over to their designated position groups and began drill work once on the field. Alex walked alone across the field to the opposite fifty of everyone and set up his tee. No one else shared the same position as Alex as there was no need for more than one kicker and punter. He then unzipped the ball bag and grabbed one of the crummy balls. He placed the ball under the tee and began his drop back. Alex measured out three steps back and three steps to the left. His feet came set next to each other before he began his progression forward and ultimate wind up. Stretching his leg back he kicked the ball with as much force as he could exert. Rubber pellets emerged from the ground where he replaced the ball with his foot. The football soared through the air and hooked right from the wind. The ball had just made it into the goal post eventually landing on the red track behind. Alex continued to kick for another hour before packing up his belongings and heading to the training cart for some water. He then joined the rest of the team where he stood from a far watching them run scrimmages against each other. At the end of practice Coach Gibbs made them line up along the white endzone strip for sprints. Eventually practiced was called and Alex as well as the rest of the team went back to the locker room to change.
With three more practices finished the season opener against Wayne Hills High School was upon the Ramapo Raiders. Alex was feeling anxious for the first game even though he knew he would only come in for extra points and maybe a field goal, other then that his role was very limited. He was the varsity kicker last year as well and only kicked four field goals and thirty-seven extra points all season, completing 100% of all kicks. Music was blasting while players began to prepare mentally for the game. Aex on the other hand put on his grey beats and kept to himself. The music stopped as Coach Gibbs walked in and began his normal gametime motivation speech. Everyone listened intently as if he was a preacher of God. At the end of the speech everyone was screaming and the intensity in the room kicked up a few notches. Ramapo was playing Wayne Hills, there arch rival since the creation of the school back in 1956. As Alex already knew he would see little action in the game. He kicked four extra points making all of them as Ramapo beat Wayne Hills, 28-17. The locker room after the game was ecstatic as everyone was chanting and screaming in excitement. The Ramapo Raiders were officially 1-0 on the season. Each game played out relatively the same for Alex, except for week seven against Paramus High School. Alex was called in to kick three field goals, the most he has ever kicked in a game. He also kicked the game winning field goal from thirty-eight yards away. The Ramapo Raiders finished with a 8-1 record their only loss coming to a tough Old Tappan team. Alex kicked eight field goals and fifty-five extra points this year making all of them. He was honored best kicker in his team’s conference, which he gladly accepted. The Ramapo Raiders earned their spot as the number one team in the playoffs and their first game would be against a strong offensive Pascack Valley team. Although Ramapo won the game, it was hard fought battle on both sides with the final score being 21-14. Rampo would now advance to the semi-final game against the third ranked team, West Milford. It was a dog fight between both teams as their defenses played phenomenally. There was no score until late in the game when AJ, the quarterback, through a thirty yard pass to Max in stride for the first points. The game in the end would be low scoring with Ramapo winning 7-0. The players headed back to the locker room and danced the night away until the coaches came in and spoke.
“You boys earned it … a trip to the State Championship game at Metlife stadium!” announced Head Coach Gibbs.
The players erupted with loud screams and chants yelling, “States”. The atmosphere was like no other and Alex would cherish this forever as this would be his last game before graduating. Alex felt a sense of joy as he had made it to one of high schools most prestigious games.
The day was final upon them, the State Championship game. The game was highly regarded around New Jersey; the game was set to appear on all local channels as well as ESPN3. Alex was blown away by the professional locker rooms they had in Metlife. Each player got to sit in a NFL players locker. Alex was delighted to sit in Lachlan Edwards locker his favorite player on the New York Jets, as they both were special teamers. The lockers were fairly larger compared to Rampo, however they were made out of metal instead of the standard wood locker. Alex put in his headphones and listened to music, he was feeling uneasy and nervous for the game that was commencing. Coach Gibbs gathered all the players and spoke one final time.
“We’ve worked all season for this. Every practice, every game, every hour we’ve spent together. No matter what happens todays I love you guys. Now let’s go and get that win.”
The screaming didn’t stop until they were officially on their sideline. Everyone was pumped up and couldn’t wait for the game to start. Alex gazed up at the crowd on the Ramapo side. Each student was showing their pride with green and white. Students began chants and held up signs that read, “We Are the Best.” His eyes continued to the stadium decorations of the New York Jets. This opportunity was once in a lifetime, and Alex couldn’t yet grasp it all. The captains walked out onto the turf field and exchanged handshakes with the other team. The white hatted referee tossed the coin up into the air. The coin reflected the light from overhead displaying its true silver color. Ramapo won the toss and elected to receive first. The game in itself was dreadful not only players but fans as well. The tightly contested game was the battle of who would be crowned state champions. AJ was playing lights out with over 300 yards passing, however, Estevez was not letting off the gas either with two fourth down touchdowns against Rampo.
Ramapo had the ball with thirty seconds late in the final quarter of the game. They were stranded at their own 15 yard line and had a long ways to go if they wanted to win it. The score was all tied up at 21-21. A run pay and quick pass later Ramapo was on the move. Time was winding down with so much more yards to go.
“AJ throws a fifty yard deep shot to Max. Max is tackled at the 33 yard line with four seconds remaining,” stated the annoncer.
Alex jogged onto the field looking down at his cleats. Thoughts raced through his mind, What if I don’t make it? I’ve never kicked more than 40 yard field goal. His hand was trembling and his stomach was turning. All the other players were lined up in the field goal formation. Alex walked up to the tee and looked down at Ingy.
“You got this. You’ll be the hero of the game if you make this,” said Ingy.
I sure hope so, if not everyone will blame me. Alex took a deep breath and began his step backs. Just like in practice, three steps back, three steps to the left. Alex looked at the ball then at the field goal post in front of him. The ball was thrusted back and Ingy caught the ball before placing it on the ground. Alex took his steps forward and stretched his leg back. He closed his eyes and kicked the ball with all his power. Please God let this ball go in. He opened his eyes again and time felt as it stood still. The noise from players and fans was not heard. The ball moved slowly slicing through the air in front of it. Soaring through the air the ball met its peak before making its descent. All Alex could think was, I just missed the biggest kick of my life. The ball made its way left and Ding; it hit off the left upright. People were unsure if it had went in until the zebra printed referees signaled it was good.
“Alex has just made history by kicking a 51 yard field goal to win the State Championship game for Rampo, they win!” announced the commentator.
The Ramapo section went wild, students stormed the field rushing Alex. All he could see was a mob of green heading straight for him.
The students lifted him off the field chanting, “MVP, MVP!”
Alex was named Player of the Week by New Jersey Today, and honored as player of the game for Ramapo. Alex having received no offers prior to the season had now received one. He will now be attending The College of New Jersey next semester as the football kicker.