|Josh Kay was perfect on four
field goals and three PATs after a rough start to the
Photo by Dan Harris, d3photography.com
Josh Kay hadn't missed more than three kicks in a season.
Prior to Sunday's top 10 matchup, the Linfield senior was 0 for 3 in two games for the Wildcats.
"It really, really humbled me and brought me down," Kay said. "We had miscues as a unit, (but) I took full responsibility."
A disappointing start to the year turned out to have a much happier ending.
Kay connected on four field goals, including a game-winning 39-yarder with five seconds left to give the then-No. 5 Wildcats a 33-30 win over then No. 10 Cal Lutheran Saturday. It was his first career game winner.
The Wildcat kicking specialist's confidence never wavered even after two missed kicks, one to the right and one to the left, and a blocked try. He went back to a routine that he learned while taking up his other passion, golf. Kay pretty much grew up on a golf course as the Salem golf club has been part of his extended family since 1927.
"I realigned my thoughts, the way I approached my routine," Kay said. "I worked on getting in a meditated state, working on grinding out my routine with my eyes closed. To make a kick was in my control the way I approach it mentally. Firing all cylinders, I just realigned my thoughts. I just solidified that routine to my brain, going through the steps, going through the motions, just viewing it as another kick."
Although it was hardly a routine three points that was scored.
"I thought both teams played one heck of a game," Linfield coach Joe Smith said. "That was as crazy of game as I have been a part of, Back and forth all day, and full of what ifs. The 32 penalties, the intense heat, and two top-10 teams playing each other for the sixth time in three calendar years, made for an unusual game."
The other side of the kicking game was a major factor as well, as punter Josh Repp had a solid 42 yard average on five punts. Smith credits his coaching staff for that success.
"Coach Brandon Hazenberg has carried on a strong tradition set by coach Ron August that focuses on kicking and punting fundamentals," Smith said. "We pride ourselves in strong special team play and we believe it is a phase that can, and will, win close football games.
The Wildcats moved up to third in the latest D3football.com poll and Kay earned NWC Student-Athlete of the week for his performance. Linfield is now 5-1 in the past six years over Cal Lutheran, including two straight playoff wins.
"This game was one of the most of the adverse, intense battles I have ever been in involved in," Kay said.
After the kick split the uprights he found Wildcat star and roommate/best friend Josh Hill, hugged him immensely, and even admitted that a few tears dribbled down his face in happiness.
"To share that moment with my brothers on the football team is something special," Kay said. "We did it as one unit. It was a whole lot more than just me."
The Wildcats will have yet another hungry opponent waiting in the wings in conference foe Pacific Lutheran after a week off for both teams. PLU just knocked off Redlands 28-14 last week and had a close battle with Cal Lu the previous week.
"Coming into the season, we were very concerned as a staff about the high caliber of teams we would play right out of the gate," Smith said. "We have not been at playoff form yet, but we are getting closer every week. Both PLU and ourselves have an extra week to prepare for each other, so I am certain both teams will be well prepared and focused on each other and it will make for a great game as it normally has been."
The number of conference championships legendary St. John's coach John Gagliardi has complied in his storied coaching career with the Johnnies. Gagliardi coached in his 600th game Saturday, a 43-21 loss to St. Thomas. The nation’s winningest coach is 486-134-11 overall in his 64 years of coaching and 462-128-10 in 60 years at St. Johns. The Johnnies also have four national titles in his reign, two from the NAIA and two from Division III.