Still new to the game of football, McCutcheon kicker Jake Shake learned how much he could affect a game's momentum last Friday at Noblesville.
Shake's 40-yard field goal in the second quarter gave the Mavericks an important 10-3 lead. After McCutcheon scored a tiebreaking touchdown early in the third quarter, Shake pushed his extra-point try wide of the uprights.
But the first-year placekicker redeemed himself by immediately booming one of his three touchbacks into the end zone. The big boot came later in the quarter, when Shake lined a career-long 49-yard field goal over the crossbar.
The Mavericks rode the momentum of that kick to a 26-10 victory and a sectional championship matchup with Fishers tonight. After using his leg to aid the McCutcheon defense all season, Shake has begun to make an offensive impact as well.
"Towards the end of the season, I've been more comfortable with field goals, because I'd never been on a football field before and it was a new experience," said Shake, also a three-year varsity player for the McCutcheon boys soccer team. "I feel like the beginning of the season helped me out for the end of the season, just getting that experience."
When Benito Barrera graduated after last season, McCutcheon lost a punter with a mid-30s average and the school record-holder for longest field goal (52 yards).
Shake approached Maverick coaches about filling the void over the summer and quickly devoted himself to improving. In addition to attending a couple of kicking showcases, Shake spent a lot of time kicking on his own at McCutcheon, drafting his teammates or his younger sister, Laura, to field balls for him.
A mid-season knee injury, suffered during a soccer match, kept Shake off the field for a Hoosier Crossroads Conference game against Fishers. But he's been a steady presence otherwise, averaging 34.3 yards per punt and totaling nine touchbacks. (In high school, any kickoff that reaches the end zone is a touchback and cannot be returned.)
"In this conference, everybody's got a kid back there who can go the distance if he touches the ball," McCutcheon coach Ken Frauhiger said. "For a guy to put the ball in the end zone takes a tremendous amount of pressure off of the kickoff teams."
Shake said he prefers to attempt field goals on turf fields, such as the ones at Noblesville and Fishers, where his footing is more assured. He missed from 52 yards at Ellison Stadium.
But the turf and conditions lined up for Shake last Friday. Frauhiger noticed him connecting from up to 60 yards with the wind at his back in warm-ups. When Shake made his 49-yard attempt with 2:56 left in the third quarter, McCutcheon had a two-possession lead (19-10) and all of the momentum.
"We felt pretty confident with that two-possession lead, and we were able to really stick it to them and get farther ahead," senior defensive lineman Nick Mack said. "It was a nice safety net and feeling we had when that went through the uprights."
Shake plans to attend more showcases in the offseason and would like to kick in college. While developing as a football player, Shake also learned valuable lessons about balancing his life as a two-sport athlete and student.
"It was definitely time-consuming, trying to fit both practices in and then homework," Shake said. "My grades didn't drop too much, but they did drop some. It definitely made me manage my time better."