Placekicker Gets Schooled by Female Soccer Players

Giana Scerbo and Mary Haines admit they don't know much about kicking a football. Both girls play soccer at Ridgefield Park in New Jersey and the only time the seniors had taken aim at a football goal post was in gym class.

That was until Wednesday, when both were summoned to become tutors to Ridgefield Park senior kicker Jose Filpo.

Kicking was the easy part for the soccer players. The football part was a departure, which was plainly evident when Scerbo called a tee "the kicking thing." Welcome to Kicking 101.

The two soccer players offered some tips to Filpo, who had struggled while missing four extra-point attempts in a 30-12 victory over Queen of Peace on October 6.

Mostly, they were there to show him that kicking an extra point shouldn't be such a difficult task. That started to sink in after Haines made all of her five attempts and Scerbo went 4-for-5.

"It makes me proud that we all worked together. Just because he plays football and we play soccer and he's a boy and I'm a girl, it doesn't matter. We all worked together," said Scerbo, a forward who is among the school's all-time leading scorers. "We're all Scarlets, so we're all one team. We just went out and showed him."

The trio started from the goal line, with each taking five attempts. Then they backed up?five yards and repeated the process.

Filpo worked on his fundamentals: keeping his head down, getting his plant foot lined up straight, snapping his hip through the kick and following through. Haines eventually hit the crossbar with a 40-yard attempt.

"It's a male ego thing. If a girl can do it, then a guy can do it," said Haines, a defender who takes goal kicks for the Scarlets.

Filpo has all the leg a high school kicker could need, which was a big reason why he switched from soccer to football before last season.

He certainly has the potential to make 40-yard field goals with regularity if he can get his mechanics straightened out.

Being a kicker is about timing and mechanics as much as it is about being able to kick a ball far. That's what Ridgefield Park coach Tony Gonzalez was trying to get across to his kicker.

"I learned it wasn't as difficult as I was trying to make it," Filpo said. "Coach could have brought a couple of guy soccer players. It had to be a couple of girls."

Gonzalez specifically had the girls work with Filpo because he was convinced his kicker was suffering from paralysis by analysis, thinking too much about what he was doing and it was preventing him from being effective.

What better way to show him how easy it should be to kick an extra point than to bring in two athletes who had never kicked before?

But, still, they're girls. The football credo says a girl's place is on the sideline in a short skirt or in the stands cheering for her man.

To Filpo's credit, he did manage to keep an open mind, mostly because he has known Haines and Scerbo since they were 5 or 6 years old in the town's Kiddie Kickers soccer program.

He also managed to learn a thing or two.

Neither Scerbo nor Haines had yet to arrive at Friday's game against Rutherford when Filpo was called upon to kick an extra point after a long touchdown run by Will Holquin early in the first quarter.

Filpo took his two steps back and one to the left before the snap and then stepped into his kick. The low liner wasn't pretty, but the ball cleared the crossbar by a couple of feet and split the uprights, which was the only thing that mattered.

Ironically, Filpo's next attempt was a much better kick, sailing high and far into the night, but it hooked left of the upright. No good. Ridgefield Park went for two-point conversions after its next two touchdowns.

"It was neat that we could build his confidence," Scerbo said. "He knows he can do it now."

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Tim Leonard is a staff writer for The Record in?Bergen County, New Jersey.

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