Green Wave get a kick out of their new player
With four goals, Ben Kern was one of the leading scorers for the East Grand Forks Senior High soccer team last season.
This fall, any goals Kern scores will be good for three points rather than one.
In his senior year, Kern has switched sports. Soccer has been his fall activity; now he'll be the placekicker for the Green Wave football team.
"I wanted to try something new,'' Kern said. "I went to watch a few football games last year. It looked like kicking field goals was right up my alley.''
Kern has been largely a self-taught football kicker. He's asked former kickers he knows for pointers and he's watched some instructional videos.
"When Ben came to summer camp, he'd never kicked a football,'' Wave coach Ryan Kasowski said. "It was always a soccer ball. I think we knew he could kick the ball a long way. It was just seeing if he could be accurate and hit from the hash marks. And he's shown he can do that.
"Ben's been a pleasant surprise. I don't know if we thought he'd be as good as he's shown he can be. From a consistency standpoint, I think he'll give us a kicker who we haven't had since I've been here. We've had some good kickers, but not someone who can hit from that far and from the hash marks.''
As practice goes on around Kern, he is alone in the middle of the field, kicking field goals, then methodically retrieving the three balls he uses and kicking again.
Kern hits the crossbar on one kick from the 30-yard line and leans back in frustration when it bounces to the side, no good. Moments later, his arms are raised as he again hits the crossbar, this time from the 35, and the ball caroms through for a successful attempt.
"It's easy from close range,'' Kern said. "But you get some distance—40-45 yards—and it gets to be a challenge. You have to get your whole body through the ball and have some accuracy.''
Kern kicks a ball in both sports, but there are differences.
"It's a lot more power needed here,'' he said. "But you don't have to be as pinpoint as in soccer. In soccer, sometimes you have a three-foot margin to shoot through. Here you have a 24-foot wide margin to kick through.''
In a close game, Kasowski said Kern's right foot could be a difference maker. "It's nice to have the extra threat we think he'll give our team,'' Kasowski said.
Kern also practices at wide receiver sometimes. He'd like to get into a game at the position. But the senior is realistic about his chances.
"I know there are a lot of people here better than me at receiver,'' Kern said. "I just came here to kick.''
EGF Senior High at a glance
• Coach: Ryan Kasowski.
• 2017: 3-7, eliminated in semifinal round of Section 8AAA tournament.
• Graduated starters: Dylan Selk, Justin Kallock.
• Returning starters: Sr. Chase Olderback (all-district), sr. Jhett Pesch (all-district), sr. Carter Beck, sr. Ethan Trebil, sr. Jackson Galstad, sr. Luke Vonesh, sr. Zack Johnson, sr. Aaron Riddle, sr. Ross Corbid, jr. Kaden Robinson.
• Potential new impact players: Jr. Julian Benson, jr. Tyler Aamodt, soph. Sam Votava, soph. Ben Moen.
• Returning rushing leaders: Trebil 98-283, Galstad 74-222, Beck 80-202, Benson 37-169.
• Returning passing leader: Beck 19-49-5, 252 yards.
• Returning receiving leaders: Vonesh 2-58, Trebil 5-29.
• Returning tackle leaders (solo-assisted): Olderback 20-11, Beck 26-5.
• About the offense, coach Kasowski says: "We still want to run the football. That's what we hang our hat on, to be able to grind it out and run the ball. I think we have a few more options as far as things we can do with some of the athletes we have. We're doing a couple of things differently. But we still want to run the football.''
• About the defense, coach Kasowski says: "We're working on the fundamentals. We don't want to put too much pressure on the players. We're just letting the guys go out, fly around and play.''