Sports

Gracey’s critical kicks

North Kitsap High School’s starting kicker Kyler Gracey takes the field yet again for the 2012 football season. Gracey was a top scorer for the 2011 team.  - Kipp Robertson/ Herald
North Kitsap High School’s starting kicker Kyler Gracey takes the field yet again for the 2012 football season. Gracey was a top scorer for the 2011 team.
— image credit: Kipp Robertson/ Herald

POULSBO — Kyler Gracey knows what it takes to kick a soccer ball down the field.

Having played for 11 or 12 years, the left-footed North Kitsap High School senior is used to sending a ball sailing into the opponent’s territory. Playing mostly left mid-fielder, he’s confident when it comes to the kick.

That’s good for the Vikings varsity football team, because Gracey is returning as the team’s kicker for the 2012 season. He’s confident at kicking field goals at 40 yards and he is no stranger to making 50-yard goals.

“It’s taken a lot of practice to be able to say that,” Gracey said Aug. 27 during football practice, adding it’s a benefit to the whole team.

Gracey and the Vikings will have the chance to test what they’ve learned Aug. 31 when they travel to Archbishop Murphy High School, 12911 39th Ave. SE, Everett. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Gracey expects this season’s Vikings to continue the success of last season. The Vikings ended the 2011 season 5-2 in league play, 5-5 overall. The 2011 team was eliminated from the playoffs after losing 38-17 to Lindbergh.

Viking head coach Jeff Weible has high expectations too.

The team lost a small amount of players — two running backs, a tight end. So with the amount of returners, Weible will be working with an experienced team.

“We’re excited about this year,” he said.

Gracey was one of the top scorers for the 2011 team. Weible said the Vikings have consistently had strong kickers to work with. Before Gracey, Weible said, Zack Sampson played for four years.

During the 2011 season, Gracey had earned 30 points by about mid-season That was 14 points behind lead scorer Andrew Urquhart, who had 44 points by early October.

Gracey’s farthest field goal during a games was 43 yards in 2011. The school record is 49 yards.

Kyler began playing football in seventh grade. But getting him on to the gridiron wasn’t easy. He said coaches asked him to tryout for two weeks before he finally gave in. It went well.

“It went extremely well,” Gracey said.

Though still in the preliminary stage, Gracey may seek to go to college to play as well. He would like to follow in his parents’ footsteps and go to Washington State University.

“He certainly has the chance to play the next level next year,” Weible said.

But college is a school year away. For his senior year on the Vikings team, Gracey said he has no problem backing his team up with his kick.

Of course, Gracey would rather see the team get a touchdown and earn the extra point.

Weible has no problem putting Gracey in for a field goal within 50 yards, he said. Recently, Gracey kicked eight or nine field goals during practice, moving further and further back — he made them all.

“He’s perfected the technique of kicking and punting,” Weible said.

Gracey’s confidence was boosted as a kicker early on in the 2011 season, when the Vikings played North Mason in the first league game. The Vikings in no way needed the field goal — the game ended 45-0. However the conditions were poor for Gracey and he had a 43-yeard field goal in front of him.

“I was like really coach, it’s raining, the grounds wet and you’re trying to put me out there in the worst situation,” Gracey said. “But hitting that field goal really boosted my confidence … It felt amazing.”

The game against Archbishop will be a good test for the entire Vikings, Weible said.

Archbishop took second in the 2011 state championships, losing by one point to Lynden (17-16).

Sequim High School was the only team from the Olympic League in the 2011 State championships.

As long as the Vikings have the proper attitude — respect all opponents, but don’t fear them — Weible said the 2012 team should be successful.

 

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