College of Idaho senior kicker Kyle Mitchell likes to stretch his pre-practice kicking session as far back as 75 yards from the goalposts to see what he can do.
“It’s a crowd-pleaser, for one,” he said, adding that he has hit from 70 with a strong wind. “It’s always nice to have guys hooting and hollering.”
That practice paid off Saturday, when Mitchell stepped onto the field at Simplot Stadium in Caldwell to try a Frontier Conference-record 58-yard field goal.
Make it, and the Yotes’ undefeated record would be preserved. Miss, and their year-long winning streak would be over.
His kick certainly was a crowd-pleaser.
“It went off his foot like a rocket,” College of Idaho coach Mike Moroski said. “... It was fantastic. All those years in football, that’s never happened to me in my life. I’m thrilled to get (a game-winning field goal on the last play). The guys were hoisting Kyle on their shoulders. Everyone was taking selfies with him. They believed in him. He’s just gained the respect of the team with the way he’s worked.
“It was one fine moment.”
The Yotes (6-0) improved to No. 7 in the NAIA poll going into a game Saturday at Southern Oregon (3 p.m. Mountain). They have won 12 straight games.
That streak was in serious jeopardy last week, when Montana Tech took a 14-13 lead with 21 seconds left. The Yotes fair-caught the kickoff to get the ball at their own 25-yard line knowing they had a strong-legged kicker and a hefty wind at their backs.
Mitchell had made field goals from 29 and 45 yards — a season long — earlier in the game and missed from 49, his only miss of the year. He also tried a 60-yarder in warmups that missed but proved he could kick one that far.
“We would have loved to have gotten to about the 30 — that makes it a 47-yarder — but we were going to take what we could get,” Moroski said.
The Yotes moved 34 yards in four pass plays and sent Mitchell onto the field with 2 seconds left.
“(Moroski) just told me to be ready,” Mitchell said. “... I had the mentality of I’m going to (make it) because I have to. That was pretty much all that was going through my mind. I didn’t even know how far it was.”
Mitchell was “abnormally calm,” he said. He’s been told that teammates gave him some inspirational words but all he remembers is a single high-five.
“Thinking about it now, I should have been a little more amped for it,” Mitchell said. “... I kind of just zoned everything out.”
His kick was down the middle — leaving no doubt — and cleared the crossbar with a few feet to spare.
“I knew right when I kicked it that it was going to be good,” he said. “... It’s something I’ll carry with me for the rest of ever.”
Mitchell came to College of Idaho in 2016 out of Herriman, Utah. He played high school soccer in Virginia but switched to football as a senior when his family moved to Utah because there wasn’t a spot for him on the soccer team. Kicking was his grandfather’s idea, and an uncle in Kuna helped make C of I the right choice for college.
He was 5-for-8 with a long of 29 yards as a Yotes freshman, 4-for-8 with a long of 43 as a sophomore and 6-for-7 with a long of 37 as a junior. He’s 8-for-9 this year.
The past two years, the reliability of the field-goal operation — including long snapper Jacob Torres (Rocky Mountain High) and holder Connor Richardson (Fallon, Nevada) this year — and the blocking of the linemen has contributed to the improved field-goal success, Mitchell and Moroski said.
Mitchell returned to class this week — he plans to become a physician’s assistant — to much attention, but he’s determined to keep his focus on the field.
“That’ll go away by next week,” he said of the fanfare.
Idaho, Idaho State: The Vandals are off this week and return Nov. 2 vs. Cal Poly in Moscow. Idaho State (3-4) plays Saturday at Southern Utah (2 p.m., Pluto TV).