AURORA – Players, fans and alumni plunged into the prospect of Aurora Central Catholic’s first football playoff berth since 1997 during the summer.
By the time the Chargers started 5-1, campus already was giddy. Once ACC assured itself of the postseason with a win a week later, everyone was all in.
While Chargers senior Nick Homan often can be seen with his head down, he’s equally involved in the euphoria. Looking withdrawn simply is one of the basics of the kickoff specialist’s style, which differs from his approach in soccer.
“If you pull your head up and you don’t lean back, a football will generally go all the way to the sky and land at about the other team’s 30 or 40,” Homan said. “If you just lean back and put your head down, though, the ball will usually go where you want it to go.”
Homan might not be the touchback machine that Kaneland’s Matt Rodriguez is, but the Elburn resident still has seven and remains long off the tee. Two summers ago, the Chargers’ veteran striker was talking with his father, Dan, about whether he could punish an oblong ball as much as a round one.
A quick trip to Kaneland quickly revealed the answer.
Homan tried out for football and has been handling kickoffs for the past two seasons. Soccer teammate Michael O’Donnell – ACC’s goalkeeper – does punts and extra points. When the Chargers visit St. Joseph-Ogden for a Class 3A first-round game at 5 p.m. Saturday, both will be playing in their second postseason of the fall for their school.
The pair routinely shuttled over to football after soccer practice and did not encounter conflicts with any games.
“I guess all the soccer players would be pretty good kickers,” junior defensive back/special teamer Collin Hendricks said, “but for some reason, Nick has a knack for kicking pretty far, so it really helps.”
Hendricks is one of four Chargers who graduated from Harter Middle School in Sugar Grove, a group that includes sophomore starters Mikey Malawski (offensive guard) and quarterback/safety Matt Rahn, who is questionable for Saturday’s game with mono.
Homan attended St. Peter School in Geneva amid an eclectic Chronicle-area tour. His family moved from Indianapolis in 2006 and lived in a Batavia rental house until its current Elburn home was finished a year later.
Although he didn’t pursue football until midway through high school, Homan still was aware of the school’s 15-year playoff drought. He assures he has committed himself to bringing the Chargers back, namely when he kicked off nine times in a 55-0 rout of Guerin in Week 7.
“It’s really a unique experience since we haven’t been this far since ’97,” Homan said. “It’s pretty cool to be a part of it. Even though I’ve only been on the team for two years, it’s great to be part of something that’s historic for the school and rebuilding for the program.”
Given his background, Homan keeps closer tabs on Kaneland’s soccer playoff pursuits than those of its football team. He’s admittedly less accurate on field goals and extra points, so happily defers to O’Donnell in those departments.
Last season, recent graduate Kevin Bond also did the soccer-football double, giving the Chargers three separate specialists.
Homan wears No. 4 in both sports as a nod to an older brother’s former high school soccer teammate in Indianapolis. Looking back, Homan wonders if the player was worth such a tribute.
Homan’s value to the Chargers isn’t as debatable.
“He kicks the heck out of the ball, and so it’s a nice weapon when you can get the ball either inside the end zone or pretty darn close to it,” ACC coach Brian Casey said.