With each passing overtime last week against Maize, the pressure began to mount for Manhattan High place-kicker Joseph Trujillo.
As the Indians would score touchdowns, at time seeming to do so at will, the game’s next overtime wouldn’t be secured until Trujillo nailed the extra point.
“The worst is when they start chanting ‘block that kick’,” Trujillo said. “That probably gets me the most. But coach kept talking to me, keeping me calm and telling me it’s an easy kick. I knew it was an easy kick, so I just focused on that and kept my breathing regular.”
Kicking, especially extra points, is as much based on repetition as anything else. Trujillo takes deep breaths, focuses on doing what he’s done so many times before, and tries to keep his head down.
“There is pressure there, because I’ve missed them before,” Trujillo said. “Once again, it’s just practice. My biggest thing this year is keeping my head down, not letting the pressure from the line get to me, because that’s usually what causes my bad kicks. But I kept my head down and trusted my teammates, and they trusted me.”
Watching the game as it was happening, you could cut the tension with a knife as each kicker took their turn on extra points. Regardless of cheering interest, the general hope was the game wouldn’t end in a way that would devastate a young kicker. Fortunately, Manhattan head coach Joe Schartz took it out of Trujillo’s hands and ran the swinging gate to complete the 2-point conversion and get the 60-59 win over Maize.
The win sets up this week’s decisive game against top-ranked and top-seeded Derby at Bishop Stadium tonight at 7 p.m.
When Manhattan (8-2) takes the field, they’ll do so with a valuable weapon in Trujillo, who typically has range to about the 45-yard line, but can extend it with help from the wind.
Against Maize, Trujillo narrowly missed a 57-yard attempt that would have won the game in regulation.
“We watch him every pregame to see how well he’s doing, and we watched him with the wind last Friday night,” Schartz said. “He was good from 55 to 57. He missed that 57-yard field goal and hit the bottom of the crossbar, so he’s a weapon for sure.”
Trujillo said when he went out to attempt the final kick of regulation, Schartz joked with him to help ease the pressure.
“If we made it, we won,” he said. “If I didn’t, we go to overtime. I just tried to keep things regular.”
Trujillo is in a unique situation as the kicker for the football team as well as a soccer player for boys’ soccer coach Frank Alonso.
The situation is certainly a strain on Trujillo’s time as he’s juggled between two practices each day, but the set-up isn’t unique. Schartz said the team has gotten help from soccer players before.
“We’ve done that in the past, had soccer players kick for us,” Schartz said. “Basically they come to the first part of our practice where we do our kicking and special teams. We’re usually able to get him to soccer practice by a little after 4 p.m.”
Trujillo said the two fall camps before each season started were the most hectic.
“At first, we started with two-a-days for football, and I was still lifting and I had soccer tryouts at night,” he said. “That killed me. I was running like 10 hours of practice a day. But once it all got regular, it got easier. I’ve enjoyed it a lot — I’d recommend it.”
Manhattan hasn’t played a ton of close games this year, so Trujillo hasn’t had a ton of make-or-break kicks this year.
But Schartz said every kick in every game takes on a certain amount of pressure. Against Maize, he said the team had total confidence in Trujillo.
“A lot of people take those for granted, but there was a lot of pressure on every single one of those,” Schartz said of the extra points. “I never was real nervous, because I knew we had a good unit out there, with the snapper, the holder and the kicker. We practice that quite a bit, and for good reason when you come into a game like that.”