HELENA -- Football coaches are always looking for an advantage and early on this season, it appears that Helena Capital head coach Kyle Mihelish has found one.
And it’s in a place that isn’t necessarily expected -- the kicking game.
In high school football, the kicking game can be a wild card and that’s what makes senior kicker Ryan Quinn such a weapon.
Quinn, who kicked for the first time in a varsity football game last Friday in a win over Billings Senior, doesn’t just play football. In fact, he’s also a key player on the Helena Capital soccer team which is part of what prompted Mihelish to talk to him about playing football.
“It’s great to have (Ryan) Quinn there,” Mihelish said. “He’s a good athlete. He has had a lot of success on the soccer field. When we approached him about it last year, I think he was a little hesitant. But when he got working and he saw what he could do kicking a football, and with last weekend, his confidence is through the roof right now.”
In his first game for the Bruins, Quinn more than proved his worth. Each of his kickoffs went into the end zone for touchbacks, which forced Billings Senior to start at the 20 yard line. Beyond that, Quinn was perfect kicking extra points and pinned the Broncs deep in their own end with some punts.
“It was really cool,” Quinn said of his first game. “There were so many more people than any other game I have played in. I enjoyed that."
Of course, there are differences between soccer and football but kicking is kicking and the transition has been fairly seamless.
"It's pretty similar," Quinn said. "Especially kickoffs and field goals. Punting is a lot different. It takes a certain technique. I am still working on that."
For the Capital soccer team, Quinn is a talented striker and will be a driving force in 2019.
For the football team, he may just be a kicker, but in the eyes of Mihelish, who says special teams are a crucial aspect of winning football games, he's much more.
“He’s definitely a weapon for us,” Mihelish said. “Special teams are so important. Getting the kickoffs in the end zone and winning that field-position battle is critical.”
While Quinn made his impact felt on kickoffs and punts in the first week, with the strength of his leg, it’s only a matter of time before the Bruins test it.
“He’s going to get his chances,” Mihelish said. “He can make them from 40 yards or more consistently.”
For Quinn, it’s an opportunity he’s itching to get.
“I think I am good from 45-50,” Quinn said. “I can definitely feel that all eyes are on me but I am trying to block that out.”
Every athlete has to deal with pressure. However, few athletes have to balance two sports at one time. But that’s exactly what Quinn and fellow Capital kicker Chris Meza are doing.
Each day, they hit the practice field early, before the team and work on kicks. Then, they each head to soccer practice and get their training in on the pitch.
“We focus on special teams first so we can get that in,” Quinn said. “Then, sometimes I will get a ride over to practice. With games, it works out pretty well. I was nervous at first and I thought I might miss a couple of games but it will only be one and a couple of practices.”
Football and soccer generally aren’t on the same day, which has freed up Quinn and Meza, who is the backup kicker for the varsity team, to do both.
At times, it can lead a jam-packed schedule, like this weekend, when Capital hosts Great Falls High on the football field Friday, then takes on Helena High on Saturday, in a crosstown rivalry game.
On the pitch, Quinn isn’t considered a secret weapon. He’s a striker, after all. On the football field, he isn’t as well known but if he keeps kicking the way he did in the season opener, it won't stay that way for long.
Especially not if he starts kicking game-winning field goals.
“That would incredible,” Quinn said. “That would be a lot of pressure, kind of like a penalty kick but I hope I get that opportunity.”
That chance could come as early as Friday night in the home opener and if it does, Quinn is a weapon that won't be secret anymore.