First-year kicker Sydney Hughes always wanted to be on the football team. She gave it a shot as a senior at Hartland and went 4-for-4 on extra points in a 28-13 victory over Howell. Bill Khan
HARTLAND — The first time Sydney Hughes kicked a football, it didn’t go well.
“When I first tried kicking at my house, I tried kicking a football and it went straight into the ground,” she said.
Of course, that made Hughes no different than anyone else — male or female — who has attempted to placekick a football for the first time. Trying to accurately kick an odd-shaped ball is not a natural act for anyone.
But instead of thinking that becoming a kicker might be a bad idea, Hughes pursued her dream of kicking for the Hartland football team.
For most of the season, that meant being content with just being part of the team, which Hughes didn’t mind. As the season went on, however, she made a significant improvement, enough so that coach Brian Savage made her the regular kicker for extra points in Week 7 against Livonia Stevenson.
She made all three of her kicks in that game and followed up with a 4-for-4 performance Friday night in Hartland’s 28-13 victory over Howell.
“My first time was against Canton,” Hughes said. “I was so nervous that I missed. Last week I kicked in the homecoming game for the first time and made it; I was so nervous then. Tonight I felt a lot more comfortable. I felt like I was meant to be out there.”
Like Hartland’s other female kicker, 2015 graduate Maddie Pogarch, Hughes is an accomplished soccer player who decided to live out a dream by coming out for the football team her senior year.
“They were kind of looking for a kicker,” Hughes said. “I always wanted to go out for football. So I just decided, hey, even if they don’t need a kicker, why not? I definitely did not expect to be kicking as much as I have been kicking lately. It’s so exciting. I just love being out on the field. I just want to do it forever.”
Hughes nearly waited too long to pull the trigger on her intentions of playing football. She didn’t attempt to kick a football until August, getting in touch with Savage shortly before practices began.
“We’ll take anybody who can kick the ball through the uprights,” Savage said. “She emailed me the Monday or Tuesday before camp started and wanted to try it. I told her when stuff was starting. She’s been here ever since. She’s been here every day.”
A crazy flip by Hartland running back Tommy Lappin is among the highlights from the Eagles’ 28-13 victory over Howell. Bill Khan
And she’s earned the respect of her teammates.
“At first, we were like, ‘OK,’ but she’s one of the guys now,” said Tommy Lappin, a senior running back and linebacker. “She does a great job. She comes to every practice. She’s a kicker. She doesn’t have to. She’s part of the team, for sure.”
While it’s common for high school football teams to get kickers from the soccer program, Hughes said that just because she can accurately kick a round soccer ball didn’t mean it was easy for her to start kicking an oval football.
“I totally adjusted how I kicked,” she said. “People always ask me, ‘Oh, how similar is it to kicking a soccer ball?’ Totally different. Totally different technique, tactics, everything.”
The Hartland offense gave Hughes plenty of opportunities to put the ball through the uprights. The Eagles scored a season-high four touchdowns on a 29-yard run by Lappin, a 39-yard run by Reece Potter and catches of 8 and 58 yards by Logan Tobel.
Howell scored on a 5-yard run by quarterback Matt Hornyak and a fumble recovery in the end zone.
“I’m just real happy,” Hughes said. “I’ve been practicing really hard. I’ve definitely improved throughout the season and it’s been paying off.