GCC kicker Slike gives up soccer to bolster football team's special teams
Ethan Slike is so committed to kicking a football, he broke up with his first love: soccer.
"I have been playing (soccer) since I was 3 years old," said Slike, who plays for Greensburg Central Catholic. "Doing both sports last year was tough, and with my classes and everything, I thought it was best. I will probably miss it, but I need time to dedicate to kicking."
Slike was a key assist distributor last season for the Centurions' soccer team, which went 16-2 and earned the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL Class A playoffs before a quarterfinal loss to Freedom. But the talented midfielder, who played cup soccer for Northern United and Stars United, wants to focus on kicking through different posts on a full-time basis.
The strong-legged senior has the ability to dictate field position in a conference known for big plays, especially from its heavyweights like Clairton and Jeannette. GCC's hopes of containing the highlight-reel touchdowns could start with Slike, an all-Eastern Conference first-team punter last fall.
The team will appreciate his hang time again this season.
"I started kicking as a freshman; My brother (Riley) kicked here so I was interested," Slike said. "This year, we're really focusing more on special teams, and I want to play a key part."
Slike made 15 of 17 extra points last season for GCC, which is now under the direction of first-year coach Aaron Smetanka, the former St. Vincent and indoor-league quarterback.
"He has the ability to kick the ball deep, and hopefully those teams won't get good returns," Smetanka said. "And punting-wise, he can angle his kicks. We'll utilize him."
GCC is young, inexperienced and has dozens of questions marks, but Slike is more like an exclamation point.
"He is such a hard worker, he's such a good athlete and he is academically sound; He has a 4.3 GPA," Smetanka said. "He wants to be here. He loves to practice."
Slike lined up to attempt one field goal last year but the snap was bobbled and the ball didn't get off the ground.
"I want more chances," said Slike, who has made a 55-yard field goal in practice. "I have gotten stronger, working in the weight room. Not playing soccer has allowed me time to work out."
Slike does all the things aspiring kickers should. He attends the camps — Lehigh, Richmond, Temple and Cornell included — and did the Kohl's Kicking Camp, a must for any kicker seeking exposure.
He works one-on-one with former Seton Hill kicker Jesse Boulnemour. And he is one of Pat McAfee's biggest fans. McAfee, the former Plum, West Virginia and Indianapolis Colts kicker/punter-turned-comedian has entertained Slike on and off the field.
"And I'm not afraid to hit someone (like McAfee did famously against Denver Broncos kick returner Trindon Holliday)," Slike said. "Trust me, I got hit a lot last year."
Kohl's has Slike ranked No. 4 in the state and 79th in the country.
"My main job is to help the team," Slike said. "Make the field long and pin teams deep."
With GCC having a 30-player roster, players like Slike may need to help in other ways.
During a heat-acclimatization practice, Smetanka had Slike catching passes.
"He asked me if I wanted to try (receiver)," Slike said.
So imagine this scenario, perhaps as a reward for the all-football switch-over: Slike catches a touchdown pass, quickly recovers to line up for the point-after, and scores all seven points on a GCC score.
"That would be great," Slike said. "That has to be one of my non-kicking goals. Or maybe I throw a touchdown on a fake punt or something."
Smetanka believes Slike has college-level potential.
"It depends on my senior year," Slike said.
Lehigh, Richmond and Cornell have shown interest in the 6-foot, 168-pounder.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BillBeckner.