Kickin’ it in two sports
Spencer Jackson brings football and soccer teams together at Palisade
“Really? That’s all you need is a kicker?”
And with that from Spencer Jackson, the rest was Palisade High School football kicking history.
That was two years ago, and Jackson was a sophomore soccer player. Football players Lane Orman and J.T. Townsend brought Jackson to the Palisade High football field.
“Try to make it from here,” Jackson said Orman told him.
The ball was at extra-point distance.
“Yeah, sure, I can make it from here,” Jackson said.
Big deal. Jackson was used to sometimes sending a heavier soccer ball slicing through a one-foot window between a goalkeeper’s diving hand and a crossbar. So of course he nailed the practice kick.
“They were stunned. ‘What? You can do that?’ ” Jackson said. “I said, ‘Yeah, it’s really easy.’ “
And thus began a sort of connection between Palisade soccer and its hard-nosed football program. Jackson, now a senior, is a forward for the 7-7-1 soccer team and starting wide receiver and cornerback, and of course kicker, for the football team, which was ranked No. 3 in Class 3A before its 27-21 loss Friday to Delta. Football players now attend soccer games, and vice-versa.
Also, Palisade soccer coach Drake Jandreau and football coach John Arledge work out Jackson’s practice and game schedules, and it’s not simple.
On Oct. 4, for example, the football team was playing No. 1 Rifle while the soccer team was taking on Glenwood Springs, a league opponent. Earlier in the season against Glenwood Springs, Jackson scored the Bulldogs’ two goals in a 2-1 win.
But he chose to play football that Thursday night.
The soccer team lost, 4-3. So did the football team, though, 31-3.
“I talk to John (Arledge), and obviously neither of us find it easy to share another player,” Jandreau said. “It’s a little difficult. It’s not every kid that can do this, to play both sports. He’s quite an athlete.”
Jackson has nine goals and a team-high 20 assists.
In football, he’s a team captain who has made 34 extra points and three field goals, caught two passes for 25 yards, and on defense he has 15 tackles and an interception he returned 50 yards. He also kicks off and has four touchbacks.
“I just don’t look at him as a kicker,” Arledge said. “He has my first-hour varsity weights class, and he’s one of the few soccer kids who have ever taken that class.”
Jackson’s interest from colleges has come for his soccer skills. Jackson said he’s had a scholarship offer from Dixie State (Utah) and is talking to coaches at Colorado Mesa University and Colorado State University-Pueblo.
But he’s not looking too far ahead. Not when he’s bouncing from practice to practice. Jackson usually will begin with the football team first, sometimes leaving practices 30 minutes early, around 5:30 p.m. From there, he heads two miles away to a Mount Garfield Middle School soccer field to practice until 6 or 6:30 p.m, Jandreau said.
“It’s a lot of wear and tear on a kid to play both sports,” Jandreau said. “It concerns me somewhat. But he’s by far the best conditioned kid on our team. I suspect he’s fairly well-conditioned on the football team as well.”
Part of the deal with Jackson playing the sports, and missing practice time, is that he does not start for the soccer team.
“But he gets plenty of playing time,” Jandreau said.
Jandreau said he inserts Jackson about eight minutes into a game, and Jackson will play about 60 minutes. And he makes the most of his minutes: Jackson leads the team in shots.
Even more, his two-sport participation entices some football players, such as quarterback Luke McLean, to attend the soccer matches.
“I know how hard he works with us and how hard he must work with the soccer team,” McLean said. “I didn’t not have respect for soccer; it’s just fun to see how Spencer has helped his team become a lot better.”
Jackson said brothers Caden and Easton Woods, to name a couple, have come to his games.
Marques Combs, a Bulldogs soccer forward with a team-high 20 goals, has noticed how Jackson has helped bring the teams together.
“I’ve noticed that in (the football team’s) locker room, the day after our game, they say, ‘Good game guys; you guys won,’” Combs said. “It used to be more like, ‘Oh, we beat this team, and you guys lost to that team,’ and stuff like that.”
Jackson even has been showing defensive end and linebacker Caden Woods how to boot a soccer ball.
“(Caden) asks, ‘How do you kick? How does that work?’” Jackson said.
For the record, Jackson said kicking a football and soccer ball requires a similar motion: Strike with the inside sole of the foot, point the toe down, swing through, and as Jackson said he tells Woods, “Keep your head down.”
And never swing too hard.
“Me doing this has brought the teams a lot closer at school, so that’s pretty cool,” Jackson said. “A lot of players at football respect soccer players a lot more than before just because I play and they know my abilities.”