Heath Brace has been playing soccer for 12 years, but that isn’t what the freshman has a state championship under his belt for.
Recruited after the school year began, Brace helped the Lions football team to their first undefeated season and a state title as the punter and kicker, converting 58 of 63 point-after attempts and making three of four field goal attempts with a long of 40 yards.
It didn’t come without built-in pressure. Brace’s brother Kent was the kicker the year before, and he was on a senior-laden team with high aspirations. He was able to take it all in stride.
“It was a lot of fun,” Brace said. “I had fun rising to those expectations to see what I could help the team with.”
Having his brother kick a year before him was a positive thing.
“When he played, I used to go and kick with him,” said Brace. “So that always helped me. But he doesn’t get back very much, now,” he said of his brother who is away at college.
If he had not been asked to play, the Lions would have had to look elsewhere.
“I wasn’t planning on playing or anything like that,” he said. “I didn’t go to summer practices or anything. The first week of school someone came to me and talked to me about it. I just thought it would be fun. It would be interesting to get away from all the soccer.”
Brace knows there are always things he can improve upon next year.
“I just want to improve myself on my distance on my kickoffs and my field goals and my punts as well.”
One situation he might face in the future is the team needing a last-second kick to win the game, something that never came up.
“I always thought about that,” Brace said. “It always crossed my mind, but the time never came for me to do that.”
He started playing football and kicking in middle school, and it was all an adjustment.
“I was home-schooled before this,” said Brace, adding that it wasn’t hard to mix in with the other students. “I was always social with my soccer and stuff so I was able to fit in.”
And now Brace is taking on a leadership role with the soccer team, a year after he played varsity as an eighth-grader.
“It’s really competitive, kind of hard to do what you want to do because you’re playing against people who have been playing so much longer than you,” said Brace of his eighth-grade varsity experience.
Brace is helping where he can.
“We have a lot people who haven’t played soccer before,” Brace said. “Just the fundamentals of soccer is what we have to learn.”