Kaplan handles pressure of dual role
With thousands of fans cheering so loud that he couldn't hear the whistle signaling the start of the play, senior Kyle Kaplan kicked a 20-yard field goal with 2 minutes, 54 seconds remaining to help the Hilliard Darby High School football team earn a 17-3 win Aug. 31 at Davidson, its first victory over the Wildcats since 2007.
As a goalkeeper eight days later, Kaplan made a flurry of saves, including on a penalty kick in the second half, to help the boys soccer team earn a scoreless tie against Olentangy. He was so relaxed moments before facing the penalty kick that his teammates noticed he was laughing about what he deemed to be a bad call.
While balancing his time playing both sports, Kaplan has found himself facing numerous pressure situations.
He wouldn't have it any other way.
"I actually like the pressure of having my teams depend on me because I've been a goalie since I was 6 years old, so I'm used to it," he said. "When a goalie gives up a goal and his team loses, he gets all of the blame, and it's the same thing when you miss a field goal in football.
"But I really enjoy playing in key situations. I really like being in penalty-kick shootouts and having to stop breakaways because it gives me the chance to make a difference for my team. It's the same thing when it comes to kicking field goals."
The football team is 4-0 entering its home game Friday, Sept. 21, against Dublin Jerome, while the soccer team was 6-0-2 before playing Westerville South on Sept. 18.
Kaplan has played for several successful club soccer teams over the past 10 years, and he had the opportunity to learn the nuances of playing in goal while training with former Columbus Crew goalie Jon Busch for six years.
He became Darby's starter as a junior and is making an impact this season. Through eight games, Kaplan made 62 saves and earned four shutouts while giving up five goals.
"Kyle has made big saves for us at key times, and if he hadn't have been there for us, we may have only three wins so far this season," coach Johnny Ulry said. "Kyle takes everything very personally because he doesn't want to let the rest of the boys down. He's a great leader on the field and he's got all of the physical tools you need to play the position. He's tall (6-foot-2) and he's worked hard in the weight room to become strong and quick. He's got good hands and a strong leg."
Kaplan said he never seriously considered playing football until he took a humanities course taught by Darby coach John Santagata as a sophomore.
During the spring of his sophomore year, Kaplan began practicing kickoffs and field goals with 2011 Darby graduate Seth Ervin, who was the Panthers' starting goalkeeper and place-kicker at the time.
Kaplan became Darby's place-kicker as a junior, when the Panthers finished 7-3 overall.
But while playing both sports throughout the fall, Kaplan's right knee and back became increasingly sore, and at the conclusion of his junior seasons, he was diagnosed with having inflamed plica tissue in his knee and a stress fracture in his back. Last Dec. 30, Kaplan underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair his knee, and he wore a brace for four months to help his back heal.
On July 11 and 12, Kaplan participated in the Ray Guy Kicking Academy camp at Dublin Scioto, where he received instruction on how to improve his place-kicking technique.
"I used to do three- to five-step approaches to my kickoffs and my leg swing stopped at my belly," Kaplan said. "At the Ray Guy camp, I learned to do a 10-step approach to kickoffs and to try to have my leg swing go all the way up to my left shoulder. When I made those changes, I was amazed at how much further the ball traveled on kickoffs."
After having only one touchback on kickoffs last season, Kaplan has 24 touchbacks on 32 kickoffs this season.
He also is 2-for-2 on field-goal attempts.
"Kyle's really improved and he's kicking the ball into the end zone most of the time this year," Santagata said. "That gives our opponents one less chance to score and gives our defense better field position against our opponents, which is important. He's also improved his range on field goals, too."
Playing both sports while maintaining a 3.2 cumulative GPA has left Kaplan with little free time.
Each weekday, he wakes up at 5:30 a.m. and makes it to Darby by 6:50 to lift weights.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, he attends football practice from 3 to 4:15 p.m. before attending soccer practice from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
He plays soccer games almost every Tuesday and Thursday, and will play in at least two Saturday contests this season.
On Friday nights, he kicks for the football team, and he works at a restaurant on Sundays.
"I wake up at 5:30 every day, and by the time I finish my school work, I don't get to bed until 11 or 12 at night," Kaplan said. "I don't always get to hang out with my friends or play disc golf as much as I'd like to, but I'm having a lot of fun. Having the chance to help both of my teams get this far into the season still undefeated has made it feel like all of the practices and hard work are worth it."
Wildcats boys team picking up the pace
The Davidson boys team opened with back-to-back losses then went 3-0-2 in its following five games.
The Wildcats won at Lexington 2-0 on Sept. 8 as Joe Justus scored two goals, and they beat Bexley 2-1 on Sept. 15.
Coach Michael Mundey said forward Trevor Lewis and outside midfielder Jake Etnyre both played particularly well at Lexington.
"The guys are learning a whole new system and a way of playing," Mundey said. "They're putting in the effort. We're just trying to get it all to translate and get them all on the same page. I'm definitely pleased with the progress that we've made."
Mundey had mixed feeling after his squad battled Westland to a scoreless tie Sept. 11.
"We've sorted some things out defensively," he said. "Offensively, we're moving the ball really well and getting opportunities. We're just not finishing. (Against Westland) we had more opportunities to put the ball in the back of net and their keeper (Shawn Draper) made a couple good saves, and unfortunately, we weren't able to find it."