Lake Norman & Mooresville

Viking duo's busy kicking both soccer and footballs

North Mecklenburg seniors Patrick Harrow and Austin Holland have been playing soccer for most of their lives, growing up to become some of the best players and leaders on this year's experienced Viking squad.

But when they're not gearing up in soccer cleats and shin guards, they're putting on football pads and helmets as North Meck's kickers.

Holland, a midfielder on the soccer field, started kicking his sophomore year alongside former Viking kicker Clark Sechrest, who taught him the ropes, but Holland was unsure whether he wanted to return last year.

"I didn't even know how to put on a helmet or shoulder pads at first," he recalls. "It was weird, me being the only kicker, not really being a football player."

That's when Holland decided to recruit Harrow, a soccer forward, to join him on the football field.

"I just wanted a buddy, honestly," said Holland.

Harrow, who will play soccer at Appalachian State next season, said he jumped at the opportunity.

"I've always been interested in football and wondered what it would be like to play under the lights on Friday night," he said.

Harrow said it was a different experience playing in front of large crowds.

"The atmosphere and having all the people behind you on the stands is a great feeling," said Harrow. "In soccer there's not as much support as there is in football."

At first, Harrow admits it was difficult to learn to kick the football properly. Having played soccer for 15 years, he's used to kicking the ball across his body and had a tough time adjusting to kicking straight forward.

Holland, who hopes to kick in college, recalls going through the same ordeal.

"It was hard because my foot would go back to that normal soccer motion," he said. "It wasn't pretty at first but the ball would go where it needed to."

Holland, who's being considered by schools like Coastal Carolina and Gardner-Webb, said that over time he's built muscle memory that has helped him become more consistent.

He works out with Dan Orner, a former North Carolina and Minnesota Vikings kicker, once or twice a month to keep improving.

Harrow explained that even though it took him some time to get used to the motions, the hardest aspect to learn when it comes to kicking is timing.

"With your snap and your holder and a defense rushing at you trying to block the ball, you really don't have much time - it's only a matter of seconds to get it off," he said.

Holland said standing on the sidelines watching the action can also be hard, especially coming from a sport where he's involved in nearly every play.

"Hopefully my day will come when I can run a sneak or something," he said. "That's what I dream of."

Last season, Holland took care of both field goals and punts, leaving Harrow only responsible for kickoffs.

But that's already changed this season, as mono has forced Holland to take a break from both sports at least for a few more weeks.

Harrow has had a solid few weeks. He hit two extra points during the Vikings 34-14 loss to Ardrey Kell Friday. Harrow had a 48-yard field goal blocked during the winding minutes of the first half.

Although Harrow didn't have Holland's help on the field, Holland was quick to give his teammate words of encouragement and advice.

When Holland returns, both players should go back to their regular duties, but Harrow might see more action on longer field goals.

As if learning a new skill set wasn't enough, Harrow and Holland have also had to learn how to manage their time playing both sports.

"It's already hard to balance homework with one sport," said Harrow.

"Both coaches get on us because we have to miss practice for the other sport. It's hard to please everybody."

Monday through Thursday, Harrow and Holland spend about 30 minutes kicking with the football team, usually after having soccer practice.

But football coach Mike Bradley and soccer coach Paul Kikta have both been supportive of the multitasking duo.

"They work well along together to make sure me and Patrick do what we can for both sports," said Holland.

Bradley said that on a team that doesn't return many seniors, he said he knows he can count on both of his kickers.

"They're weapons for us," he said. "Patrick is giving us great field position by kicking 75 percent of the kickoffs in the endzone and inside the 30 yards. Austin is very accurate."

Although the Vikings football players have accepted Harrow and Holland as one of their own, Bradley said he knows they're soccer players first.

"They're soccer players who help us out in football," he said, adding that last year when the football team had a game on a Thursday, the same night the soccer team was playing, he didn't even think of asking them to kick and had his team manage without them.

Harrow knows that too.

"I loved soccer first, but I also love football and playing it with my best friend."