Wakeland (Texas) High's Ryan Ward hasn't officially played a game yet this season, sidelined with a cracked femur that could keep him out another week or, in a worst case scenario, two. Yet Ward still managed to have one of the biggest impacts on Wakeland's early season, connecting for a penalty kick goal in his team's semifinal of the Duncanville Kickoff Classic in a victory over the Class 5A state champions, Jesuit (Texas) School.
"I've always had the confidence to make a big, clutch shot," Ward, who wears number 6 in the team portrait above, told the Dallas Morning News. "We've been practicing them all season long ... and I tucked it away."
Ward shouldn't have been allowed to take the kick at all, given his preexisting injury. And the statistics from his connection are particularly odd, since his failure to play in regulation meant that he wasn't officially counted as a partiicpant in the game. But, according to the Morning News, the junior midfielder walked up to Wakeland coach Rusty Oglesby with time in regulation ticking off the clock, and proceeded to tell him in no uncertain terms that he should be taking one of the penalty kicks.
His coach obliged, making him one of the more unique converters of a high school penalty kick in Texas state history.
"He said, 'I need to take one of these,'" Oglesby told the Morning News.
Not only did Ward get to take one of the penalty kicks, he took what might have been the most important kick: The first one. Oglesby was so impressed with Ward's confidence that he made him the first man up, despite his injury.
Ward may have provided his team's offensive spark, but Wakeland goalkeeper Nick Petolick was his equal between the pipes, stopping two Jesuit shots and watching a final attempt sail wide to seal a win in the early season clash of regional titans.
"I do the same thing every time," Petolick told the Morning News. "I get up to the PK spot and cut off as much angle as I can and just react from there. I look for a bad touch, and when I see that, I just attack."
As great as Petolick was -- just as he'll be expected to be unflappable throughout the season -- Ward was the story after the penalty kicks were tallied. He repaid Oglesby's faith, just as the coach will count on him to do for the rest of a long season ahead, as Wakeland fights to defend its 4A state title.