As Tanner Hoose lined up for his 20-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter of Southwestern's season-opening football game last Friday night at Bill Race Field in Falconer, one of the guys working the chains on the Trojans' sideline asked an innocent question:
"Can this kid kick?''
After the ball split the uprights - it would have been good from better than 40 yards - the answer should have been: "In what sport are you talking about?"
Yeah, Hoose, the 16-year-old junior, is scary good, both on the gridiron and the soccer field.
But it's his personal story that makes what he does in the fall even more compelling.
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Tonight, Hoose will handle the place-kicking for the Trojans when they entertain Westfield in a Class C South football game at Charles A. Lawson Field.
Southwestern's starting kicker for less than a year - he didn't get a call-up from the junior varsity until Game 3 last season - Hoose has already left his mark. In 2011, he booted nine field goals, including the game winner in overtime at Fredonia to help the Trojans advance to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C championship game.
The nine successful tries - he is tied for fifth in state history for single-season makes - plus his accuracy on extra-point attempts, earned him first-team all-state honors by the New York State Sportswriters Association. But Hoose, who joins a long list of stellar kickers at Southwestern, including Chris Stoddard, Dan Imfeld, Jimmy Rauh and Nick Swanson, would have never accomplished all that had Swanson not been injured in the second game last September.
The promotion to the varsity made life rather interesting for Hoose right away. An outstanding forward on the Trojans' soccer team, he had a Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 soccer game at Olean the same night that the Southwestern football team was playing host to Olean in a football game. The soccer game, which was extended to double-overtime, ended at 6:40 p.m. in Olean and the kickoff at Lawson Field was set for 7:30 p.m.
"I was driving like a lunatic,'' said Johneen Hoose, Tanner's mother.
By the time, she reached the school, the national anthem was being sung, but her oldest of eight children was able to get to the sidelines in time to handle his kickoff duties.
A star was born?
"He is a first-team all-state kid,'' Trojans coach Jay Sirianni said. "Here, when somebody is first-team all-state, their number is retired. He's a very good soccer player, but his number (13, by the way) is going to be retired as a football player. That's a little unique."
So is his personal story.
More on that later, though.
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On Thursday, the Trojans downed Cassadaga Valley, 7-1, in a non-league soccer game. Hoose had two goals, giving him four in three games to go along with two assists.
"I think Tanner is juggling and able to do both (sports) as good as you can hope for,'' Southwestern soccer coach Mark Sleggs said. "To play a very physical sport like soccer and then to have to also have the same concentration and intensity to kick a football is (really something). I've been trying to encourage him to balance the two - along with his school work - so he can get the most out of it. From a physical standpoint, he's doing about as well as anybody could.''
The top scorer for the Trojans last season and a CCAA Division 1 first-team selection, Hoose says he likes both sports equally.
"My dad taught me both of them,'' Hoose said.
Joe Hoose was a defensive lineman and kicker at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he graduated in 1989. The tutoring he is giving his son has paid dividends in both sports.
"I think we have as good a working relationship as you can to make it work so he can succeed in both of them,'' Sleggs said. "I think there's probably a little give and take. It's my feeling that with him coming from a family of eight children it would be my hope he would be able to get a scholarship for his kicking. It's just my opinion, because his ability to get a scholarship at the college level would probably be with football.''
See HOOSE, Page C5
Hoose's ability to juggle his fall responsibilities - he wrestles in the winter, too - place him in a unique club. Maple Grove alum Jason Pembridge was a stellar soccer player and a Class D first-team all-state kicker last year, while Randolph's David Pihlblad and Nick Milliman have all played soccer and football at the same time and at an extremely high level.
The difference when telling Hoose's story is what might have been and, thankfully, what never was.
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When Hoose was 4, his mother took him to the doctor for a well checkup, because the family had changed its insurance plan.
"Within two seconds, (the doctor) was listening to Tanner's heart and he said, 'You will need to see the cardiologist,''' Johneen said.
That day, Hoose was taken to another doctor, who discovered, after further tests, that he had a hole in his heart. Six months later (and after an additional procedure failed) the preschooler had open-heart surgery.
"He had no symptoms and I asked if the surgery was necessary,'' Johneen said. "The doctor looked at me and Joe and said, "You both look very athletic, I'm positive your child is going to play many sports and when this kid is 15 or 16 years old he will drop and that will be the end of it.''
The surgery was performed on a Friday at Cleveland Clinic and Hoose was home by the following Monday.
A dozen years later, he's one of the best kickers in the state and one of the top soccer players in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties. So if you want to see this feel-good story up close, might I suggest a trip to see the Trojans - and Hoose - play on the gridiron or the pitch this fall.
Just for kicks.