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Soccer player gives a boot on gridiron

08/15/2015, 7:00am PDT
By Terry Monahan

Carlsbad kicker making strides after being talked into joining football team

The skills of Carlsbad senior kicker Collin Riccitelli might result in more field-goal tries by the Lancers this season, says coach Thadd MacNeal.

— As a soccer player almost since birth, Collin Riccitelli never even thought about giving football a try.

Not until Patrick Fanene — the freshman football coach at Carlsbad High, where Collin’s dad, Jeff, is the boys soccer coach — sought out the family because he needed kicking help.

Fanene convinced Collin that he ought to kick a few field goals.

It didn’t take long before Riccitelli was persuaded to become the Lancers’ place-kicker and punter despite a rough start.

“The first kick I tried went through the uprights, but I took a 20-yard run at the ball and it knuckled the whole way,” Riccitelli recalled. “Fortunately, I’m a quick learner.”

By the end of his freshman football season, Riccitelli was much better. He kicked a 42-yard field goal in the final minutes to seal a 20-19 win over Vista to clinch the Avocado West League championship.

“And we were down to our third snapper and backup holder on that play,” Riccitelli said, laughing.

Last season, Riccitelli succeeded on all four field goal tries. His longest came from 40 yards out. He also punted 22 times for a 33.4-yard average, placing five kicks inside the 20.

This year, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior might be in line for more field goal tries courtesy of a busy offseason attending camps and clinics. It’s part of an effort to gain coach Thadd MacNeal’s confidence to attempt more kicks for the Lancers, who open the season Aug. 29 against Phoenix Brophy Prep.

“I’m the original riverboat gambler on fourth down,” MacNeal said. “I know he was hitting from 45 and 48 yards at the Stanford camp, so he’s improved to the point where I may have to change my thinking and take the three points more often.

“When he hit that field goal to win the league title, I knew we had something special there.

“Chris Sailer, the kicking guru, has Collin listed as one of the top kickers in California right now.”

Riccitelli knows exactly what’s at stake. He’s fought for so long to be considered a football player, not just a kicker.

His goal is to land on a big-time Division I college team next fall.

“I used to think senior year would be all about fun,” said Riccitelli, who is undecided about college. “I remember sitting in meetings hearing the coaches telling the seniors they have a limited number of days as a Lancer football player left. Now I’m in that boat and I never thought it would happen to me, at least not so soon.

“I wish we could win CIF. That’s been my dream for a long time. There would be nothing better for the community and the school than to win CIF in football.”

No pressure there, right?

“Hey, that’s what kickers face all the time,” Riccitelli said. “People think kickers just go to practice for 15 minutes off by themselves and then go home.

“I saw early on that on varsity the kicker has to be dialed in all the time.

“When I’m lined up for a kick I hear the snap count and that’s about it. It’s just me and the uprights.”

As Riccitelli says, that’s why football is different from any other sport.

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