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With Little Time Left, He Kicks Right on Line

November 29, 1996|PETER YOON

SUN VALLEY — Any time Village Christian Coach Mike Plaisance sees kicker Matt Ryburn spraying field goal attempts all over the field during pregame warmups, he get a big smile.

When he sees Ryburn miss a few attempts short, he feels relieved.

Ryburn has won two games this season with last-second field goals, both on days when he had a horrible pregame warmup.

"We can always tell when he's going to have a good game," Plaisance said.

"When he's shanking [attempts] so bad that we have to get out of the way because we don't know where they're going to go."

His latest game-winner was a 42-yarder with five seconds left in last Friday night's 10-9 victory over West Valley in the first round of the Division XI playoffs.

Earlier in the season, Ryburn connected from 39 yards with six seconds remaining to beat Whittier Christian, 17-14, in a nonleague game.

Ryburn has connected on five of six field goals this season and has missed just two extra points.

His two 42-yarders are his longest in a game, but he has connected from 53 yards in practice. But if Ryburn had his way, he would just be kicking extra points.

"I don't mind [kicking field goals]," Ryburn said. "I'd just rather see our team scoring touchdown after touchdown."

Ryburn, a sophomore, is the latest in a growing trend of soccer players-turned-football-kickers. He was asked to join the Crusader junior varsity team last season when a coach saw him in a physical education class.

He tried only one field goal on the junior varsity last season and missed, but he worked on technique over the summer with former Crusader kicker Ignacio Brache, the state high school record holder with 16 field goals in a season who is kicking at California.

Ryburn is becoming a star.

"He has all the potential to be as good as [Brache]," Plaisance said. "If he keeps working out and dedicates himself, then by the time he's a senior he'll be just as good."

But even though Ryburn is in his first year on the varsity, Plaisance had no second thoughts last Friday night about putting his team's playoff life in the hands, uh, feet of the 15-year-old.

"I knew he was going to make it," Plaisance said. "He wasn't making anything in the pregame."

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