Dylan Baker and Noah Kemble are more than just soccer players.
Dylan Baker and Noah Kemble are more than just soccer players. They proved it as Havelock defeated Eastern Wayne 44-20 to win its third straight eastern 3A regional championship on Friday.
They hope to prove it again against Concord in the state championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday at Raleigh’s Carter-Finley Stadium.
Baker kicked three field goals of 26, 27 and 33 yards and converted on all five of his extra point attempts against Eastern Wayne. He also had a pooch kickoff in the first quarter that teammate Julian Cuthbertson recovered, giving the Rams the ball.
Baker had attempted and made just one field goal all season before making three against the Warriors. He quickly gave credit to long snapper Jordan Begley, holder Julian Mobley and the blocking up front.
“This was actually my first challenge of the whole year having to kick more than one field goal in a game,” he said.
With the Rams leading 7-0, Baker was called on to kick a 26-yard field goal into a stiff wind. He drilled the ball down the center from the left hash mark, putting Havelock ahead 10-0 after the first quarter.
“Kicking into the wind is no different than any other field goal,” Baker said. “You just have to keep it straight.”
He’s 33-yarder in the third quarter put Havelock in front 37-0.
“I actually came out on the field with a smile on my face,” he said of the kick. “It’s just fun to go out there and have my time to shine.”
Havelock coach Jim Bob Bryant usually doesn’t like the idea of kicking a field goal when a touchdown and four more points are possible, but he called on Baker regularly in the eastern regional championship.
“I wanted to give Dylan some on-field experience in case we need a big field goal in the state championship game,” Bryant said. “Now I know I can trust him.”
Despite Baker’s commitment to the Havelock soccer team, Bryant said his junior has worked hard to improve on the football field.
“He’s improved tremendously from last year to this year,” Bryant said. “He’s gone to a few kicking camps and he’s worked hard in the weight room. He’s done a great job, and I’m really proud of him.”
But of course that doesn’t mean Bryant won’t joke about his field goal kicker.
“When he comes to practice, he’s a kicker. While we’re doing offense and defense, all he does is kick all day,” Bryant said. “He better be able to make that field goal.”
On the season, Baker has made all four of his field goal attempts and is 67 of 78 on extra points. He said the field goal unit has made adjustments to try to overcome some recent blocks of extra points.
“We actually have been working on getting the snap a lot faster, and the holder doing more muscle memory,” he said. “We actually scooted up one yard behind the line.”
Meanwhile Kemble put five of his seven kickoffs against Eastern Wayne into the end zone for touchbacks.
“He’s got a big leg, and if he kicks it in the end zone, you cause an offense to drive it 80 yards on our defense, I’ll take those odds every time,” Bryant said.
Kemble, who has committed to play soccer next season at George Mason, understands his only role on the team is to put kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. He’s done it on 29 of 82 kickoffs.
He too has made the adjustment from kicking a soccer ball to kicking a football.
“There’s not much difference,” he said. “You have to kick a football in a different spot than a soccer ball, but as far as the mechanics go, it’s mostly the same.”
Kemble said he enjoys being a part of the football team.
It’s humbling, first and foremost, to play a role and be a part of this team,” he said. “If there’s one thing that I never thought I would ever do in my whole life it’s play football, but somehow I got into it, and I just want to help out the team and help out the school and do the best I can for them because they definitely deserve it.”
He’s looking forward to the opportunity to kick in the state championship game.
“It’s a lot different than a soccer game, but it should be exciting,” he said. “I just hope we go out and score a lot of points so I can kick and do something.”
Baker, too, is also relishing the idea of kicking in another state championship game.
“This is awesome going to it for a third time in a row. It’s great,” he said. “We’ve got the best coaching staff we could possibly have, and it wouldn’t be possible without everyone on this team. It’s just a big family.”