Does No. 33 have a ponytail?

Fans of the Oldenburg Academy football team may have done a double take at this season’s placekicker when the Twisters opened their campaign in August.

Allison Storms, 17, Batesville, assumed the role for head coach Eric Feller following an oh-by-the-way conversation at last summer’s Freudenfest.

“It was super random and kind of a joke at first,” recalls Allison, the middle of three girls calling Shawwn and Diana Storms parents.

“My dad was working a booth with Mr. Feller and (teammate) Matt Sedler’s parents,” she goes on. “Mr. Feller asked me what sports I’d be playing after transferring (from Batesville High School). When I said soccer, he was like, ‘Oh, my team needs a kicker.’”

The very next day, Shawwn was testing out his daughter’s accuracy. The early returns were perfect for her first-ever attempts.

“I made my first five field goals, and Dad said, ‘Why don’t you just think about it?’” says the OA senior, who spent her first three years playing soccer and swimming at BHS.

Think on it she did for about a week, considering the social and gender dynamics of such a choice. Older sister Caroline, 21, an OA grad studying at Indiana University, advised her that if she cared what people did or thought, she’d never do anything out of her comfort zone. This could make little sis stand out.

Leaning toward playing, Storms attended a practice.

“When I kicked a 42-yard field goal, the coach said, ‘You’re on the team.’ OK, I guess I’m on the team.”

To date for the 4-3 Twisters, Storms has capped off 11 drives with successful point-after touchdown kicks. She’s yet to be called upon for a field goal try.

“Depending on the yards and angle ... I’m pretty consistent from 20-35 yards, but a little iffy when you get to 35-45,” she explains. “I think Coach would let me if he didn’t think we could score a touchdown, but I don’t think he’d put me in a position to win or lose a game. Though I’m good under pressure and wouldn’t mind if he did.”

Soccer is Allison’s first love, however, and will continue to be as she treks off to Centre College (Danville, Kentucky) next fall to play for the Colonels.

“I looked at bigger schools, but felt I’d be better athletically and academically at a smaller school,” she offers. “I’ve been in love with Centre since I first visited. They’ve been a really successful program.”

For the past four years, the teen has been a member of Indy Premier Soccer Club, switching from the Columbus Express when coach Kenrick Ramirez made the same move. Last fall, she elected to join the Michigan Nationals instead of the Batesville Bulldogs.

Starting in December, Storms will have a unique opportunity with her Under-18 Girls Elite teammates.

“We qualified for the U.S. Soccer National League,” she says. “There will be three to four weekends when we travel to Las Vegas, Florida and North Carolina, stay four to five days and play two to four games. It’s like having a couple tournaments wrapped up in our normal Midwest Regional League schedule.”

The winter traveling precludes her from joining the Oldenburg swim team, a sport she wasn’t eager to give up.

“I debated doing both in college,” she points out. “But if I tried to swim, I’d miss the first half of the season. If I were going to (continue swimming), I’d make it a priority, but I don’t see any benefit now.”

Another choice she had to wrestle with was leaving BHS for Oldenburg.

“I loved my experience at Batesville. I think it’s a great school,” comments Storms. “My mom went to OA and wanted us all to have a Catholic education. But I begged to go to BHS, and Mom said I could be the exception.

“But I also wanted to go to school and play soccer with (freshman sister) Evelyn for one year, which of course made my parents so happy.”

The Twister sisters helped OA to a sectional championship Oct. 12 at Rising Sun. Allison has put in five goals and added eight assists for the 10-4-1 club that traveled to the Forest Park regional Saturday to face Providence. The three-hour trip to Ferdinand likely meant Coach Feller was without his placekicker’s service for last Friday’s regular season finale vs. Covenant Christian.

This created a rare conflict for the senior, who’s been able to juggle her obligations smoothly.

“It’s sometimes challenging, but playing club sports since I was small has made my time management skills progress,” she relates. “The coaches have been super flexible with their time. I’ll text with Mr. Feller on Monday and discuss a time that will work, usually once or twice a week for a half hour. The hardest is Fridays, when I have to leave soccer 40 minutes early for an away football game. But if I don’t have to miss either, I won’t.”

Allison’s had nothing but support for her new endeavor. Her male teammates made the transition easier.

“I was nervous, because football’s a boys’ contact sport and that’s just how it is,” she comments. “One of the best feelings, though, is they didn’t take it as a girl shouldn’t be on the team, they took it as she’s here to help us.”

It was a little awkward at first, playing the sport for the first time in her young life.

“I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to stand and it seemed like everyone was staring at me,” she remembers, with a nod to the season opener vs. Rock Creek Academy.

“A couple games in, I felt more comfortable ... it’s definitely something different.”

Her friends have also been in her corner since that first game, literally getting a ‘kick’ out of seeing one of their own in pads.

“They’re like my biggest fans,” Storms laughs. “It’s a lot bigger deal than they think it is, because the first time I put on a uniform, I wasn’t sure if I was cut out for it. But they’re supportive. They’ve commented that they only went to one game last year, but have been to all of them this season.”

There was certainly a learning curve early on.

“I look for accuracy in soccer and football, and kick both the same way,” she says. “In football, you have to go up and straight, but with soccer, it’s more likely to be a goal if it’s lower and to the left or right. I struggled at first in positioning my body to the ball.

“I didn’t have as hard a time with the timing of the snap or placement as I did with being in pads,” she adds. “I wasn’t used to all the weight and fitted pants, so it took me a sec to get used to. Once I got my steps down, I caught on pretty fast.”

Does she worry about getting hit at all?

“In one instance, I got bumped, but I haven’t been introduced to any experience where it’s full-force tackle,” she describes. “And I wouldn’t be upset if I got tackled, because I got myself into this.

“Coach Feller decided I will punt only if it was extremely necessary, since there’s more risk of getting tackled,” continues Storms. “On kickoffs, I was told to run as fast as I can in the opposite direction (of the play). I want to stay healthy since soccer’s my ultimate goal.”

Perhaps this will help steel Storms for her future career; she wants to major in political science, attend law school, then take a military/law enforcement track with her dream destination being the FBI.

“This is definitely a conversation starter,” she concludes. “Not many girls can say they were the first female kicker for a high school program. I think it’s super cool.”

*****

Meanwhile, over at Class 4A powerhouse East Central, there’s a mite with a mighty leg sending balls through the uprights for the undefeated Trojans.

For sophomore Sophie Browndyke, 15, West Harrison, placekicking is a family tradition.

Her father David, now serving as East Central’s kicking coach, was an All-Southeastern Conference specialist at Louisiana State University from 1986-89.

Sophie’s only sibling, brother Caden, held down kicking duties for the Trojans in 2017 and 2018, including a state championship turn in the fall of ‘17.

“When my brother started doing this, I began practicing some as well the past couple years, and always wanted to be out there kicking with my dad and brother,” says the daughter of Browndyke and Angie Stone.

“I decided to start looking into it in eighth grade, but I was nervous starting out, being the only girl,” she continues. “So, my freshman year and my brother’s senior year, I became the kicker for both the junior varsity and freshman teams.

“And when Caden left, I was next in line,” the student adds with a smile.

Through eight games for the Trojans in 2019, Browndyke has accounted for 48 of EC’s 312 total points. She’s converted five of seven field goal attempts, 33 of 37 extra-point tries, and kicked off 24 times for an average of 44.5 yards.

“Thirty-six, 32 ... twice ... , 30 and 21,” she routinely rattles off the distance of her successful 3-pointers.

“I’m having a pretty good season,” adds Sophie. “It’s really nice to have a good holder and long snapper to get the ball down in time.”

Those timing issues are all the more important under the pressure of Friday night’s lights.

“JV was more relaxed. It’s been more intense on varsity,” she offers. “But (junior) Ryan Bond always gets the ball down and gives me that comfort.”

How she warms up on Friday goes a long way to how active she’ll be once the whistle blows.

“(Dad) tells (first-year head coach Jake) Meiners how I’m kicking that day and from what yardage I’ll be able to kick that night, considering the wind,” she explains. “When we get in that range, Coach Meiners will make the decision to bring me in.”

Like her brother, the athlete splits time between the football field and soccer pitch. The Lady Trojans’ success has been nearly on par with the football team. The girls are 13-2-2 after winning the Mount Vernon (Fortville) sectional Oct. 12, defeating Shelbyville 11-0 and the host Marauders 3-0. That earned ECHS a date with Avon at Saturday’s regional in New Palestine.

“It’s a day of busyness for sure. I go from school to football, then out to soccer, then get home around 7.”

The midfielder has sent three goals into the netting and assisted on six others.

Based on the football Trojans’ ranking of No. 2 in the state, it would be no surprise to see Browndyke advance well into the postseason in both sports.

Her teammates wouldn’t mind her helping them along the way.

“At the beginning, it was kind of rough being on the outside, but as the season’s gone on and they’ve seen what I could do, they’ve started to adjust to the fact I’m a girl and I can do what I need to do for the team,” she states.

What does the future hold for the young woman?

“Playing soccer and football’s a lot, but I hope I can keep doing it,” she answers.

“It’s fun. I just love kicking the ball.”

Will Fehlinger can be contacted at sports@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 220112