Kittanning's Davis handles double duty
At Kittanning's football practice Thursday afternoon, senior Blake Davis aimed for the uprights.
That night, he stood under a set of them at Deer Lakes' multi-purpose stadium and guarded a soccer net.
This is Davis' final fall of double sports duty. A three-year starter at kicker in football and at goalkeeper in soccer, he's a valuable asset for both teams. He remains undecided about which sport he'll pursue after high school. For now, he's savoring the opportunity to split his time and attention.
“It's a different atmosphere with each team,” Davis said.
He dabbled in football and soccer during his formative years. Soccer started earlier — he estimated that, by age 4, he'd started playing at the YMCA.
Davis stuck with soccer as his only fall sport until eighth grade, when the urge to try football — and be near his friends — became too great to ignore. He stopped playing for his travel soccer club, Northern Crew, at age 12. Instead, he became Kittanning's quarterback.
Oddly enough, Davis didn't kick much for the eighth-grade team. And when he did, he used the straight-on method, which Davis referred to as the “toe-ball” style.
Indoor soccer kept Davis in touch with the sport during the winter of his eighth-grade year. But the ensuing fall, Davis returned to the gridiron.
Speed and a bit of arm strength made Davis a functional quarterback. But he lacked size as well as a passion for football's violence.
During the winter of his freshman year, Davis tried out for a different travel soccer club, Northern Steel, and made the team as a goalkeeper. Around the time Davis joined Northern Steel, Colby Owen served as a coach within the organization. Owen, now Kittanning's coach for a third season, did not work with Davis directly, but he heard about the goalkeeper through his cohorts.
“I sort of had a good pulse on the players from this area who were playing for that club,” Owen said. “Fortunately for him, we were in need of a goalie when I first started. And fortunately for us, he was certainly able to fill that role.”
Davis joined Kittanning's soccer team as a sophomore but found a way to stay involved with football — kicking.
“In ninth grade, I didn't really kick,” Davis said. “But then I worked on it over the whole summer, with no formal training at all. I just went and did it.”
Each of the past two seasons, Davis earned all-section honors as a goalkeeper. Those accomplishments failed to offset the frustration Davis felt as he watched the Wildcats struggle in obscurity, managing five wins in two years.
Kittanning's football team hardly fared better in 2010 and '11, winning one game each season. But at least people filled the stands.
Fans can create pressure, however. And kickers, much like goalies, rarely get attention for good reasons. Davis' double duty begs the question: Which situation is more stressful: a crunch-time field goal or a penalty kick in a tie game?
The senior sided with the former of the two choices.
“If I make that, I'm like the hero,” Davis said. “If I miss it, I'm the worst kid ever. But they're both equally tough as far as mental pressure goes.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1303 Ext. 1321.