Being a place kicker at any level of football may seem simple, but is definitely no easy task. Ask any kicker from high school to the NFL that has been asked to toe the oblong ball. Focus, coordination, consistent form, and especially a good mental aspect all play into splitting the uprights from different angles and distances on the field.
Local kicker Raymond Morales at Sylva-Bay Academy it seems has figured out the perfect routine of nailing extra points and field goals. He is perfect so far on the season through eight games on all of his attempts.
That is to be noted.
What's even better about this story is Morales never planned on playing football; he really wasn't interested in football several years ago. Now, he is a leader of his team.
Morales has connected on 19 extra points, and he has nailed three field goals.
Sylva-Bay head coach Terry Underwood said he has had some kickers throughout his years of coaching at large high schools like Hattiesburg and Oak Grove and junior college that have been great kickers, but that he can remember none have been “perfect” this deep into a season.
“He’s having a great year,” Underwood said of Morales. “He works very hard at it, and I’m glad to see him having the success he is having.”
Morales has said before that he never had any intentions of playing football, but it seems he has grown to be an integral part of the Saints team. He grew up playing soccer, even at an early age in a local league his father, Ronnie Morales, formed in Bay Springs. Underwood said he knew he needed a kicker, and he was able to get the youngster as an eight-grader on the gridiron.
“I saw him as a young person when I first got here. I knew we didn’t have a kicker, and I needed to address that situation. I talked to him, and he was kind of ‘sitting on the fence’ about what to do,” Underwood explained. “Then, I saw him kick a soccer ball. He had the ability, the question was whether he had the interest.”
Morales found the interest, and Underwood said he has become a “fiery and big time competitive kid.”
“That transcends into his kicking. He’s as good, if not the best leader we have on the team from a standpoint of enthusiasm, excitement, and enjoying the game. He enjoys every moment.”
Morales credits Underwood for seeking him out.
“Coach Underwood finding me. I couldn’t have done this without Coach Underwood. I never planned on playing football,” he said.
Morales went on to explain during his freshman year was when he really got the thrill from kicking a football. It was during a 6-for-6 game.
“That boosted my confidence a lot on Homecoming. It felt good, and it felt good winning with the team,” he explained. “There is just a love for the game right now. Believe it or not, I never thought I’d like football to be honest. But, I really enjoy kicking. I enjoy working out with the team, and I enjoy leading them. I want the best for our team.”
Raymond’s father, who also thought he would never be on the football field, has a seen a great evolution with his son.
“That was never the plan (for him to play football). He was always wanting to play soccer. From coach Underwood searching the halls when he came here to players asking him if he’d like to try it, it just evolved from there,” said the elder Morales. “He tinkered with it, started liking it, and started going to (kicking) camps.
“He does a lot of work on his own, and you see him out there trying to dial in his kicks. He’s real excited about continuing his kicking in the near future.
“His work ethic is bar-none unbelievable, and he is driving himself. He’s making this happen. He wants this for himself, and I am super proud of him.”
The junior kicker will be back on the field this Friday night for another Homecoming game, where that thrill for kicking and football began when he was just a freshman.
Just about can guarantee he pushes one through given the opportunity.