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The dichotomy of North Kitsap's Zack Sampson
POULSBO — Two short steps to the left is the magic formula for kicking a school record field goal.
On Sept. 26 during an away football game against Yelm, Vikings senior kicker Zach Sampson went to the left and launched the pigskin 48 yards through the uprights to set North Kitsap High’s school record, shattering the previous record of 40 yards, which he also set on Sept. 6 in a game against Bainbridge.
Against Yelm, Sampson was minding his own business, warming up in silence and solitude on the sidelines, like he does every game. That’s his style.
He didn’t think he’d be kicking from mid-field, especially after quarterback Kevin Stringer told him it wasn’t very far.
“But it seemed far,” Sampson said.
Once the snap came, Sampson said he hit the ball “good,” right on the sweet spot. The contact made just the right “thump” sound, like it does whenever he knows the kick is golden.
But he thought “Oh no, I hooked it.” He looked up to watch the ball go right and then slowly start to creep left and inside the posts.
“It could have gone 10 more yards,” Sampson recalled.
He jogged back to the sideline where everybody was high-fiving him. He didn’t know how far the kick was, he had no idea.
But he learned.
“It was just a really great feeling,” Sampson, said. “I was really proud of myself.”
Sampson has been a Viking football player since the ninth grade, also playing wide receiver and corner. During his four years on the squad he has perfected an approach that suits him well.
He begins by relaxing and visualizes kicking the ball through the uprights. Once the ball’s set up he takes one step back and two short steps to the left.
“That’s the way that is most comfortable for me and has always worked for me,” he said.
He keeps his head down and his eye on the ball. Once it’s in his possession, the right-footed kicker plants his left foot and strikes through the ball. He listens for the impact, if it’s not right he hears it. If it’s a slap sound — “Oh I didn’t hit that right,” he thinks. If it’s a deep thud – “Definitely that felt good.”
His kickoffs generally sail 55 yards, and often bounce in the end zone, which puts the Vikings’ defense in ideal stop-the-opponent position. His kickoff routine differs slightly from his field goal style, taking 10 steps back and three to the left.
Vikings special teams coordinators Will Synder said an opposing team starting on the 20-yard line only has a 50 to 60 percent chance of scoring.
“That’s good stuff,” Snyder said of Sampson’s kickoffs. “It negates a lot of opponents opportunities for big plays. I’ve never seen a high school kicker like him. Not many kids can hit a 48- to 50-yard field goal with room to spare.”
Snyder attributes Sampson’s impressive ability to strong legs, a drive to excel and years spent kickin’ it on the soccer field. Sampson didn’t need much work, Snyder said; the soccer star was a good kicker from the get-go.
Sampson’s played soccer since the age of 5. He started with the North Kitsap Soccer Club and now plays forward for the state’s premiere Crossfire Academy. He agrees years spent on the soccer field helped hone his football skills.
“Being a soccer guy and always being able to kick a ball well worked in to my being able to kick a football well,” he said.
But what’s truly impressive about this 18-year-old isn’t how he can kick a ball, it’s his dedication and time management.
To say the least he’s busier than an accountant during tax season.
Sampson’s practicing for, playing and competing in soccer and football while being a full-time senior who pulls in A’s and B’s. His days start around 6:45 a.m., then it’s school from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and football practice from 3-4:30 p.m.
After practice, he huffs it to Bainbridge and catches the 5:30 p.m. ferry so he can get to soccer practice in Renton, which runs from 8-9:30 p.m. He rides the 10:05 p.m. ferry home and arrives at his parent’s abode around 11:15 p.m. He eats dinner, goes to bed and wakes to and start it all over again. He finishes his homework on the ferry or in class. Sampson also has multiple competitions on the weekends, usually a football game on Friday night and then soccer on Saturday and/or Sunday. Last weekend he was in Port Angles with the Vikings on Friday and then in Renton and Sammamish for soccer on Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s hectic,” he said. “It takes a lot of energy, concentration and focus.”
But it’s all in a season’s work for Sampson, who’s goal is to sign with a Division I school for either sport. He’s undecided which sport, but he has a few options for both.
The University of Washington and Arizona State are interested in Sampson for football and California Polytechnic State University and the University of San Francisco have contacted him about playing soccer.