When he's not attempting field goals and extra points, Paul Raven gets down and dirty as a running back.
By BOB PUTNAM
Published October 15, 2003
CLEARWATER - Paul Raven comes onto the field whenever the game is on the line. It is up to him to deliver the winning kick.
But toeing the line by gauging the wind and booting the ball through the uprights is not Raven's only forte. The Clearwater Central Catholic junior also wants to sweat and bleed. This season, he does both.
In addition to field goals and extra points, Raven is getting his kicks as a workhorse running back. The combination has helped him rank eighth in the county in rushing (585 yards) and fifth in scoring (58 points).
"I want the ball," Raven said. "It doesn't matter whether it's in my hands or coming off my toe."
By drilling defenders as often as footballs, Raven, at 5 feet 9, 165 pounds, has subjected his body to aches and pains. He pulled his quadriceps in Week 1, an injury that still stings whenever he plants his left leg to kick.
All that could have been avoided had Raven decided to just kick. But he wouldn't have it any other way.
"It would be too boring to just sit there and kick all day," Raven said. "I want to be involved."
CCC coach Mike Jalazo noticed Raven's competitiveness on the junior varsity the past two seasons. Raven was a multitalented star at quarterback, running back and kicker.
"There are two types of kickers," Jalazo said. "Kickers who happen to play football and football players who happen to kick. I like the ones in the last category, and that's where Paul belongs."
Jalazo knew it was a risk to use his star kicker at running back and brought up another kicker from the JV, Anthony Leandri, as insurance. Though he has been beat up, Raven has not come out of a game and has provided big plays and points. He has scored seven touchdowns and kicked seven extra points and three field goals.
"For the most part, kickers are generally a pain in the butt," Jalazo said. "They're thinking too much about their technique and not just going out and kicking the ball. Paul is so intense that he's not worried about all that. He lines up and goes for it."
This week, Raven's skills will be needed in a Class 2B, District 7 game against St. Petersburg Catholic. Both teams are 4-2, and a field goal could decide the outcome.
Raven, though, hopes to run well enough that CCC won't need a late kick.