At Beck and call: Vipers kicker answers with game-winner

·4 min read

Sep. 23—HENDERSON

Kickers are some of the most critiqued and influential players in the game of football, with some even impacting the history of the sport. Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed a game-winning field goal in Super Bowl XXV and Blair Walsh shanked a 27-yard field goal to send the Seattle Seahawks to the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs in 2016.

For Vance County kicker Ian Beck last week, missing was not in his vocabulary, nor was it an option.

After the Vipers stormed back to tie the game with Durham's Jordan High, after being down 27-7, the sophomore placekicker knew he was ready for the task of clinching the game.

"A lot was going through my head," said Beck. "I was just thankful I had the rest of the team to help me stay focused."

With the Jordan crowd rising to its feet, Beck silenced their cheers with a swift kick of the leg, launching the extra point through the uprights to give Vance County the 28-27 lead for good.

To understand the importance of the kick however, one has to acknowledge its meaning.

The Vipers were on a two-game losing streak, threatening to drop below .500 for the first time all season. As the bye week loomed, the result of their final non-conference game would linger for two weeks.

With just 23 feet, 4 inches to work with, Beck's successful point-after attempt encapsulated what the Vipers have been equipped with all season: resiliency.

Come-from-behind wins, injuries to major contributors, and heartbreaking losses have made their appearance just five games into the schedule, but Vance County has fought against all odds and Friday night's victory further proves that.

Beck moved to 5-for-5 on extra points for the season after head coach Aaron Elliott decided against attempting a two-point conversion.

For Beck, who is playing in his first season on the gridiron, the choice to put the game in his hands, or leg to be precise, gave him all the confidence he needed.

"It meant a lot that Coach Elliott trusted me enough to go for the kick," said Beck.

Elliott, who is also in his first season with the Vipers, entered the year without a kicker, but he didn't have to look far to find the right man for the job.

Coach Elliott attended workouts and practices of the Vipers soccer program, exploring his options for a new placekicker.

Not only did the Vipers' newest special teams member come from a fellow sports program, he came from a team that competes on the same field and in the same stadium.

After days of observing and trying out kickers, Elliott approached Beck with the offer of joining the football program.

"I first came about joining the team back in August," said Beck. "I really didn't think about playing football until Coach Elliott asked if I would try to kick."

Now with fall sports in full swing, Beck's schedule is busy, even by a teenage high schooler's standards.

After school releases at 3:30 p.m. each day, he makes his way to the practice field to work on extra points and field goal attempts. Leaving as quickly as he came, he then changes into his soccer cleats and shin guards for practice on the pitch.

The Vipers soccer team on average plays two matches per week, with football taking center stage on Friday night.

With practice or a game Monday through Friday, Beck's weeks are full of long bus rides, late nights and hours of practice.

Now a two-sport letterman in the fall, he credits his lifelong participation in soccer as a reason for his success in football and why he has found a home on the Vipers' roster.

Less than two months after agreeing to take over the kicking duties and join a sport he had never played, Beck saw last Friday night what he means to his teammates and how they assisted him with the biggest kick of his life.

"The team definitely helped in getting my mind in the right place for the important kick," he said. "It was a pretty great feeling [after], when the team was celebrating with me. It was definitely an unforgettable experience."

As a sophomore with two and a half years remaining in high school, Beck will certainly have more opportunities to make memories on both the pitch and the gridiron. But for now, he is focused on the present and enjoying his new life as a Vance County football player.