For most of his childhood, Tanner Kalicki’s sports focus was on baseball and soccer. Tackle football was never in the mix until he entered Carson High School.
“I’m not sure (why no football),” Kalicki said Tuesday morning. “My parents put me in soccer. I played club soccer (for a long time). I didn’t like the people that played the game. I didn’t like it when I was told to go down when I was fouled.
“I started losing interest in soccer. I got cut from soccer here as a freshman. Somebody said the football team needed a kicker. I knew I could kick, so I decided to do that. Receiver and defensive back came along my sophomore year.”
The decision turned out to be a great one, both for Kalicki and Carson High.
Through four games, he’s averaging 59 yards on kickoffs, he’s a perfect 3-for-3 on extra points and 2-for-3 on field goals, both coming last week in a 21-6 win over McQueen. His 52-yarder was the longest in CHS history since Austin Pacheco kicked a game-winning 64-yarder against Bishop Manogue in 2011.
“We had Johnny (Barahona) last year, but we saw some of Tanner’s talent last year,” Carson coach Blair Roman said. “Strength wise, he is pretty close to Austin. Austin was a little stronger, but not by much. Austin was a well-rounded kicker. I think he could have been a Division I punter. Tanner is our back-up punter.”
Veteran kicking coach Jim deArrieta agreed.
“He didn’t get the opportunity last year because we had ‘Rocket,’” deArrieta said. “I knew he had a good leg. This summer after we worked together more, I could see how strong his leg was. I think he could be a Division I kicker, I really do. I’d love to see Nevada take a look at him. The kick he missed at Lewiston would have been good on a high school field. He was kicking to college goal posts (which are narrower).”
What impresses Roman and deArrieta the most is Kalicki’s height on kicks whether it’s on a kick-off, a PAT or field goal.
“It’s different than soccer,” deArrieta said. “A lot of times you are punching the ball to another player. You really are never getting any height on the ball (unless you are a goalie). I stress getting the leg up quicker once you make contact with the ball.
“It’s consistency. You want to kick the ball the same way no matter how short or how far the kick is. You ease up on a shorter kick that’s where you get into trouble.”
Kalicki also said it’s important where you contact the ball.
“I try to kick the lower half of the ball, but not too much lower,” he said. “The 42-yarder I hit perfectly. The 52-yarder I hit a little low.”
The 42-yarder last week might have been good from 55 or 60. It cleared the crossbar with plenty to spare in both distance and height. The 52-yarder was an impressive kick, but wasn’t kicked with the same authority.
With Carson’s offense struggling to score points this year, having a proven field goal kicker will be a valuable asset.
Kalicki’s value extends to both offense and defense. He has three receptions for 44 yards and three tackles.
“When he came out he didn’t have a lot of football experience,” Roman said. “He’s a good athlete. He gives us a lot of options.”
Still, it’s been a learning on the job process for Kalicki, especially on defense.
“I remember the first day I ever played, coach Roman said I looked like a defensive back,” Kalicki said. “I didn’t even know what a backpedal meant. I got to start the game in Idaho, but only because we had some guys out.
“I didn’t start playing wide receiver until last year. I am definitely learning new things every day, every game.”
Being 6-foot-1 and athletic can overcome lack of experience. Kalicki isn’t a speedster but he has good hands, and that’s the most important thing.