NEW PALESTINE — The New Palestine junior never wanted to play football. He almost didn’t break the state record for consecutive extra-point attempts in a season. And he nearly missed out on playing for the state’s top team in Class 5A.
The blonde-haired soccer standout almost never became one of the most accurate kickers in Indiana high school football history, until he did — all of it — thanks to a first-year football coach three seasons ago.
Finding something New Palestine’s Kyle Ralph hasn’t positively had an impact on since becoming the program’s head coach in 2012 is like finding a needle in a haystack. His 38-1 record speaks for itself. Ralph has turned the Dragons into one of the most feared and respected teams in the state.
But maybe his biggest project since arriving in New Palestine? Junior kicker Spencer Corey, who went from not wanting to play football as a freshman to one of the state’s most intriguing kicking prospects, already receiving Division I interest in just his second full season as a starter for the undefeated Dragons (10-0).
“It sounded like a gunshot, like cannon,” Ralph recalled of the first time he heard a ball (kickball) come off Corey’s foot just before the kicker’s freshman year.
“I was teaching summer P.E. before we had even done any football stuff,” he continued. “I was like, ‘Hey, you, come over here’. I asked him if he played soccer, and he said yes. I said, ‘Well good, you’re going to play football, too.’”
Corey had no interest. So Ralph encouraged the skinny freshman to meet him, with his parents, after school to see if he could make it through the uprights.
“He was a natural,” Ralph said. “I think he kicked a 30-yard field goal that day. It was just a stroke of luck really. It is a rare talent to have the football explode off your foot like that.”
Added Corey, “I was a little bit nervous. I had never kicked a football before. Until Coach Ralph got me out here, I had no idea I could.”
In a 70-6 sectional-opening win against Martinsville last Friday, “the natural” broke the state record for point-after attempts in a season. He was 10 for 10 in the game and has now hit all 88 of his attempts in 2015. The previous record was 79 set by Hobart’s Spiro Batistatos in 1996.
Corey already held the state record for consecutive extra-point attempts in a season, which was 71 set by Fort Wayne Dwenger’s Greg Black in 2010. He currently is 4 for 4 on-field goal attempts, as well.
For his career, Corey has 186 points, including a 12-of-15 effort on field goals while knocking in 98 percent of his PAT’s (150 for 153).
“A couple years down the road he’s turned himself into one of the best kickers you can find,” Ralph said.
Over the summer, Corey attended multiple camps and focused on building muscles specific for field-goal kickers. His career long is 42 yards, although he admitted he could boot a 55-yarder in practice.
Corey, however, realizes none of his success would be possible without his teammates — record-breakers in their own rights. New Palestine’s offense has surpassed 500 yards 15 times in Ralph’s tenure. This season, specifically, seniors Alex Neligh and Nick Brickens each have rushed for more than 1,000 yards and combined for 43 touchdowns.
“They do almost everything. I just kick the ball,” Corey said. “They do their job and I do mine. I have to give all the credit to them.”
After the rout of Martinsville, the Dragons have another matchup looming with Columbus East (11-0) on Friday for the sectional championship. In 2014, New Palestine beat the Olympians 30-28 in semistate action on a last-second field goal from the then-sophomore.
That pressure is what makes soccer and football different in his mind, which is why he will pursue a career on the gridiron after high school.
“I’m switching over from soccer to football now,” Corey said confidently.
Although he almost never did.