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Role Suits McDonald To a Tee : Loyola Kicker Makes His Points Quickly, Heads for Sideline

August 28, 1994|KIRBY LEE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Don't get him wrong.

Mark McDonald likes to watch football as much as anyone. The Loyola High senior, though, isn't too wild about playing it. Perhaps that's what makes the role of kicker so appealing to McDonald.

"There's too much repetitiveness and just the idea of playing a sport that's so stop-and-go doesn't compare to what I experienced in soccer," he said.

But it's McDonald's skills as a kicker--not as a soccer player--that have interested recruiters from nearly 40 universities, including Arizona, Notre Dame and South Carolina.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound McDonald connected on 14 of 19 field goals as a junior, including a personal best of 53 yards. Nearly 90% of his kickoffs reached the end zone and one sailed through the goal posts. None of his kickoffs has ever been returned for a touchdown.

An All-Del Rey League first-team selection, McDonald, 17, became Loyola's first kicker to earn All-CIF honors with his selection to the Southern Section Division I team.

"At his height, he could be a threat at wide receiver, but all he wants to do is place-kick," said Loyola Coach Steve Grady. "It's nice to know if it's third and five from the 30 and you don't make a first down, you still have a guy to give you a chance to make three points."

And it's those times when the game is on the line that McDonald relishes the most.

"A game shouldn't come down to one kick, but it really doesn't bother me," McDonald said. "I love the pressure and having one chance to do it."

It was the chance to make friends, not field goals, that prompted McDonald to try football as a ninth-grader in 1991. He played wide receiver and kicked for the freshman team but didn't plan on staying with the sport as a sophomore.

"It's a common thing for a lot of freshmen to go out for football to find friends and meet people," McDonald said. "Getting hit wasn't that bad. I just really didn't like football."

Instead, McDonald tried water polo. He worked out with the team for about a week during the spring but made a hasty retreat to football once summer water polo workouts began.

"Water polo was real interesting, but I found out they practiced at 6 in the morning," McDonald said.

The only kicker on the sophomore team, McDonald worked out with the varsity kickers during the summer. Coaches elevated him to varsity for his sophomore year.

"It was amazing being pulled up, I really didn't know what to expect," McDonald said.

McDonald lived up to his billing with 49 extra points and six field goals to help Loyola reach the 1992 Southern Section Division I final against Bishop Amat, where he kicked a 42-yard field goal for the Cubs' only points.

McDonald also played soccer as a sophomore, but plans to concentrate on kicking as a senior. This summer, he attended the Ray Pelfrey kicking camp in Boulder, Colo.

"I learned a lot there," he said. "There is so much technique and scientific information about kicking I didn't realize. I was usually going up and blindly kicking the ball. My goal is to get 95% of my kickoffs into the end zone."

McDonald estimates he will be spending 95% of his time on the sideline, waiting to showcase his newly refined technique this season.

"The time you spend on the field doesn't equate to the long time you've spent preparing, but I really don't mind," McDonald said. "If I weren't on the team, I'd be going to the games anyway. At least this way I'm getting a real good view from the sideline."

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