HELENA — Carroll College sophomore kicker Josh Kraft stepped up ready to nail a 18-yard field goal to end the 2018 season on a high note.
He knew it was a kick that he could surely make.
But it didn’t go the way he would have liked.
Eastern Oregon blocked the kick with 20 seconds remaining and, just like that, he watched the Mountaineers storm the field to celebrate a 12-10 victory.
”People showed a lot of support but I took it pretty hard initially,” Kraft said. “It stung for quite awhile.”
Now, Kraft returns to the same field to put his past behind him.
He knew Troy Purcell had been hired, so Kraft embraced the challenge of showing his new coach what he could do.
“I take everything that the coaches tell me and take criticism in a productive manner,” Kraft said. “Now I can be more productive when I make mistakes.”
Carroll’s kicking game wasn’t as productive as many of its Frontier Conference opponents, making just 4-of-8 field goals in 2018, but he learned a lot from that season.
“I learned that no matter when the kick is, it’s just a kick, and no matter how far or how deep into a game, I just need to block everything out and do my thing,” Kraft said.
Kraft graduated from Billings Central High School and handled the kicking duties, but it was a job he kind of stumbled into.
Prior to place kicking, he primarily played defensive back.
“I was kind of the kid who just knew how to kick,” Kraft said. “One day we needed a kicker, so they lined us all up and I just started kicking.”
It wasn’t perfect form, but his accuracy that season ended up landing him a spot with Carroll College.
“Its crazy, because all of a sudden schools wanted me to kick for them,” Kraft said. “Sometimes I miss the opportunity to tackle somebody or leaping up to take away a pass, but I have really enjoyed my time on this team.”
And he made a friend along the way.
Just one year into Kraft’s time with the Saints, he met freshman kicker Stephen Powell.
That season, the two would battle to see who would be kicking field goals but, by the end, Kraft won the starting job.
“Josh just kicked a little bit better than me,” Powell said. “No hard feelings.”
While Kraft learned his job on the fly, Powell was strictly a kicker while he was at O’Dea High School in Seattle.
His older brother, Erik, kicked for Washington State from 2013-17 and it didn’t take long for little brother to want to follow in his footsteps.
“I always just looked up to him,” Stephen Powell said. “I knew then that I loved this sport.”
Kraft ended up winning the job last season, but right on cue, Purcell announced he wasn’t going to look at past film. A new battle has started.
Just last month at Frontier Conference Media Day in Great Falls he said that he was excited to see a competition within the special teams.
After all, it’s just one part of his formula to win games.
“You have offense, defense, special teams and turnovers,” Purcell said. “If you win three out of four of those, you will win the game.”
Kraft knows his road to redemption will have to go through Powell. He knows it’s the only available path. There is no switching back to defense.
“I don’t think he has seen my high school film (when I was playing in the secondary),” Kraft said. “He’s only familiar with Josh Kraft, the kicker.”