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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Best Foot Forward

Highland Kicker Jose Duarte Takes Aim on Surpassing Stellar Junior Season

September 06, 2000|DAVE DESMOND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PALMDALE — Through almost three weeks of practice, Jose Duarte has connected for plenty of home runs and ground-rule doubles, which would be great if he were a baseball player.

But he's a kicker and punter for Highland High.

Since practice started, Duarte has been relegated to practicing on the school's softball field, where his punts soar over the outfield fence and his field goals fly into a kicker's net.

Duarte doesn't seem to mind.

"I actually kind of like it better this way," he said. "I just imagine the goal posts higher and longer. It doesn't take anything away from me."

In this setting, it's difficult to tell whether Duarte has improved, but Coach Lin Parker is more than willing to settle for the status quo.

"He looks the same to me," Parker said. "He's got the same goatee as last year, the same girlfriend and he pretty much looks the same, which is fine with me."

Now, if he can duplicate last season.

As a junior, Duarte made 14 of 18 field-goal attempts, 19 of 22 point-after attempts and was named to all-state and The Times' All-Valley teams.

Successful kickers are nothing new at Highland.

Derek Brown, the starting kicker at Cal State Northridge, is a Highland graduate and former All-Valley selection.

Duarte broke Brown's school record last season with a 54-yard field goal against Palmdale.

This season, Duarte thinks he can hit one from 60 yards.

"That's my goal," said Duarte, who has kicked a 58-yard field goal in practice. "I think I'm going to do it."

Several colleges have expressed interest in Duarte, including Washington, Washington State, Idaho and Nevada Las Vegas.

Not bad for a kid who had never played football before high school.

Until then, Duarte thought of himself more as a soccer player. He has continued to play soccer, and should earn his fourth varsity letter in the sport this winter.

As a freshman, he didn't even own football cleats when he went out for the football team.

He tried out as a receiver.

"I figured I'd go out, catch a few balls, have some fun," Duarte said.

Then he looked around and saw 16 other guys trying out for the same position.

Nobody was interested in kicker, so Duarte gave it a shot.

He was a solid kicker as a freshman and a sophomore, when he was promoted to the varsity late in the season.

"But nobody expected him to set records and be as good as he was last year," said senior Matt Yriarte, Duarte's holder since their freshman season. "Last year, something just clicked."

Now, he has the complete confidence of his teammates and the coaching staff.

"Whenever we score six points, it's almost a given that it'll be seven," Yriarte said. "Whenever we're inside the 40, it's almost a sure thing it will be three [points]."

And it doesn't matter the situation. The more pressure, the better.

"With six seconds on the clock and the game on the line is what I like," Duarte said. "I like the pressure. I feel tingly and get pumped up in those situations."

On Thursday, Duarte will get a chance to better prepare for the chance.

That's when he and his teammates practice for the first time on their stadium's field, the only one on campus with goal posts.

"Jose is mastering the art of Zen kicking," Parker said. "He has gotten quite adept at envisioning the goal posts."

And Highland is envisioning another stellar season from its kicker.

After all, he's the best in his field.

*

DIVISION III HIGH SCHOOL CAPSULES AND SCHEDULES ON PAGE 10

SEE KICKERS CHART ON PAGE 11

DIVISION IV HIGH SCHOOL CAPSULES AND SCHEDULES ON PAGE 11

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

HOW THEY RATE

A look at the top kickers in the region:

With comment by Eric Sondheimer

Rk: 1

Player: Jose Duarte

School: Highland

Ht.: 5-10

Wt.: 160

Yr.: Sr.

Made 14 of 18 field goals as a junior

*

Rk: 2

Player: Garret Marxen

School: Alemany

Ht.: 5-10

Wt.: 165

Yr.: Sr.

His kickoffs always land in the end zone

*

Rk: 3

Player: Josh Cummings

School: Hart

Ht.: 5-11

Wt.: 185

Yr.: Sr.

A valuable weapon with great ability

*

Rk: 4

Player: Cam Robinson

School: Canyon

Ht.: 6-1

Wt.: 175

Yr.: Sr.

Has the leg to kick at a major college

*

Rk: 5

Player: Bryan Borreson

School: Chaminade

Ht.: 6-0

Wt.: 180

Yr.: Sr.

Returning All-Mission League performer

*

Rk: 6

Player: Brett Savel

School: Notre Dame

Ht.: 5-10

Wt.: 160

Yr.: Sr.

Has been booming punts in practice

*

Rk: 7

Player: Tom Colley

School: Chatsworth

Ht.: 5-11

Wt.: 175

Yr.: Sr.

Could be key offensive player for Chancellors

*

Rk: 8

Player: Johan Colocho

School: Van Nuys

Ht.: 6-0

Wt.: 190

Yr.: Sr.

Will try to continue Wolves' kicking tradition

*

Rk: 9

Player: Monte McNair

School: Oak Park

Ht.: 6-0

Wt.: 172

Yr.: Jr.

Showed great potential as a sophomore

SNEAK PEEK

Last in a nine-part series.

Aug. 23: Quarterbacks. Kyle Matter of Hart

Aug. 25: Running backs. De'Andre Scott of Alemany

Aug. 26: Offensive linemen. Philip Clark of Newbury Park

Aug. 27: Wide receivers. James Norris of Kennedy

Aug. 30: Tight ends. Nathan Terrazone of St. Francis

Friday: Defensive linemen. Kaelen Jakes of Valencia

Saturday: Linebackers. Josh Martin of Sylmar

Sunday: Defensive backs. Steve Smith of Taft

Today: Kickers. Jose Duarte of Highland

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