By Brian Howard
One kick can change the course of a career for a football player.
For Riverdale High School kicker Abdul Cole, that kick was last Friday at Twelve Oaks Stadium in the Raiders' 37-34 victory against rival Lovejoy.
Cole, who spends the fall on the football field and the spring on the soccer field, booted a career-long 40-yard field goal, hitting the crossbar before going over, with less than 30 seconds remaining.
But that kick almost didn't happen.
The junior kicker missed the opening part of the 2004 season because his mother had pulled him from the team for getting Cs in the classroom.
"She didn't like the grades that I made," Cole said. "She pulled me from the team because she wanted me to be an A or B student."
Cole, a forward on the Raiders' soccer team, said he spent the offseason getting ready to contribute to this year's squad, but Riverdale coach Nick Davis said his offseason workouts have not only made him a better player, but made him more of a team player.
"He didn't miss any workouts," Davis said. "He lifted and ran, just like he was a running back. I think he earned the respect of the team and coaches."
For his game-winning kick, Cole earned the gameball.
Cole was 3-for-3 on field goals and 4-of-4 on point after attempts.
But none of the kicks were bigger than the 40-yard he attempted with less than 30 seconds left.
"I wasn't nervous at all," Cole said. "I was just ready to go, especially the way I played last year, I was just ready to go out there and kick it.
"When I saw it hit the crossbar, I thought it was going over and that there was a chance for it to go over."
For Cole, redemption had been on his mind. He had missed a few kicks against Lovejoy the previous year and missed every extra point try against North Clayton in 2004.
"He's been real big for us," Davis said. "If you had seen the North Clayton game last year. We missed every extra point and that was one of the differences in the ballgame. This past Friday, without him, we'd probably lose the ballgame. He's earned the respect of his teammates and they trust him."
The difference for the Raiders compared to a year ago is a more experienced kicker, one that is a soccer-style kicker.
Cole said kicking a soccer ball is okay because it is round, but a football is a lot harder to kick.
Davis, who is in his second season, said he is happy to have a soccer-style kicker on the team.
"Last year we had a straight on kicker until Abdul got out here, and he really didn't have the strength in his leg, because he didn't have all summer to kick in the preseason," Davis said. "Anytime we get from the thirty (yard-line) in, we feel like we can come away with some points."
Cole could get any chance to keep Riverdale unbeaten Saturday as the Raiders face undefeated Mundy's Mill.