Locomotives find their kicker

Story And Photo By Joe Kusek
Thursday, November 11, 2021
Laurel senior Kyle DeSmet has played both soccer and football this fall.

Laurel senior Kyle DeSmet has played both soccer and football this fall.

It started as some joking around by classmates.

But each successive time the kidding was tinged with some pleading.

Well, no one is laughing now.

They’re celebrating.

The Laurel football team needed a kicker. The kick-offs were fine, but the point after touchdowns were more adventure than accuracy.

“It’s not an easy thing to do,” said head coach Mike Ludwig.

Some of the Locomotives turned to Kyle DeSmet, a senior striker for the Locomotive’s soccer program.

“They joked around, ‘You should play for the (football) team,’ “ recalled DeSmet.

After giving it some thought, DeSmet stopped by Ludwig’s office one day during PE class.

“He popped his head into my office and said, ‘I heard you’re looking for a kicker,’ ” Ludwig said. “That was an understatement.”

DeSmet has traded futbol for football.

DeSmet’s made his first appearance against Billings Central on Oct. 1. “I wasn’t really nervous, I was pumped,” he said.

“My first PAT, it was pretty close. I kind of shanked it,” DeSmet finished with a smile.

Since then, DeSmet has been perfect. He is 19 of 19 on PAT attempts and two for two for field goals, making a pair of clutch kicks in the quarterfinal victory over Frenchtown.

Not bad for a newcomer to the sport.

Originally from Lincoln, California, DeSmet and his family moved to Laurel in 2017.

“I’ve been playing soccer since I was eight, maybe six,” he said. “I really didn’t know how I was going to do. I’m doing better than I expected. I love that I haven’t missed yet.”

DeSmet initially divided his practice time between football and soccer. He would work on his kicking skills for 15 minutes before sprinting off to join his soccer teammates.

“I thought it may be cool to be on the football team,” DeSmet said. “To experience a little bit of it. I thought if football gets in the way of soccer, I would just not do it.”

DeSmet turned his full attention to football when the soccer season came to an end.

Working with assistant coach Connor Ludwig, a former Laurel kicker, DeSmet has fine-tuned his skills from kicking a round ball to one that is oblong.

“With soccer, when you kick so hard, it can’t be perfect. You have to adjust as you’re kicking the ball,” said DeSmet. “In football, you want to make it the same way every time.”

“You could tell right away he knew how to strike the ball,” said the head coach. “You have to be consistent every time … same footwork, same speed, same rhythm.”

DeSmet’s first field goal, from 26 yards out, came as time expired in the first half and Laurel trailing 17-14.

“Exhilarating,” he said of watching it go through the uprights. “I don’t get nervous.”

DeSmet’s score pulled the Locomotives even and took away Frenchtown’s momentum going into halftime.

“Absolutely a big kick,” said Ludwig. “We didn’t want to walk away without getting any points on the board.”

DeSmet was true on a 27-yarder for the go-ahead score in the third quarter. He accounted for 10 points in the win.

“I like how it’s just me,” said DeSmet of the task. “I think I do better under pressure.”

Only one thing has eluded him on the field: tackling an opposing kick returner.

“I’ve gotten close,” he said.



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