Thu, Oct 07 2010 11:19 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
Buried beneath the disappointment and frustration of a 27-24 loss in the final minutes to the Missouri Tigers on Sept. 18 -- a game the SDSU football team had all but won -- were a number of very positive developments.
The Aztecs went toe-to-toe with a Top 25 team and had them on the ropes. The defense, which was as porous as a Swiss cheese boat last year held the Tigers in check for most of the evening. The running game, something that was almost non-existent last year, showed dramatic improvement. For the second week in row freshman Ronnie Hillman displayed speed, agility and quickness solidifying his hold on the number one running back position.
And place kicker Abel Perez consistently found the end zone with his kick-offs and was perfect on his one field goal and three PATs.
Perez played soccer and football for Castle Park High School and later played a season of football at Southwestern College under Ed Carberry before coming over to SDSU. As a youth growing up in Tijuana, he never imagined he would one day be playing football for a Division I university.
“I used to play goalkeeper for Aztecs Premier down in the South Bay,” he said. “At Castle Park, I played forward, but it was pretty much just to have fun and not so serious. As a junior I was invited to kick the ball (for the football team), but I wasn’t really a football fan, I was much more into soccer.
“During my senior year I talked to the dad of one of my friends and he told me I should be kicking (for the football team). So I talked to the coaches, started kicking and had a pretty good season. I really didn’t know much about kicking, just that you had to put it through the uprights. Academically, I didn’t have a very good year, so after I graduated I just hung around (while many of his teammates headed off to college).”
Things changed for Perez once he connected with Lance Ortega from the San Diego School of Kicking.
“He brought me back to kicking and coached me for about two years,” Perez said. “He called my mom and told her that she needed to get me playing football so that I could get a scholarship.”
After taking a year off, Perez enrolled at Southwestern College.
“Coach (Ed) Carberry helped me out a lot and I had a pretty good year,” Perez said.
In 2007, the strong-legged Perez led the conference in touchbacks and went 14 of 18 on field goals. Academics continued to be a problem, but by 2009 his GPA was high enough to qualify for SDSU.
This season, his booming kickoffs have been his trademark and have helped the Aztec defense by frequently making the opposition start at their own 20-yard line. Perez is also second on the team in scoring with 38 points. He tallied 11 points — two field goals and five PAT conversions — in SDSU’s 41-7 non-conference victory against visiting Utah State on Sept. 25.
Under coach Brady Hoke, no job on the Aztecs roster is ever secure. It is all based on recent performance. Perez is being pushed by another kicker from the South Bay, former Bonita Baron Bryan Shields. So far, Perez has seen the lion’s share of the playing time, but he knows that that could change at any time.
“The competition makes us both better,” Perez said. “The day of the game is when we find out who is kicking. I don’t think the starting job is ever going to be locked down here. In the pre-game kicks (for the season opener) Bryan missed two and I didn’t miss any, so the coach came up to me and told me I was going in.”
So far, Perez has justified the confidence that Hoke has shown in him.
The Aztecs, off to a promising 3-1 start, kick off Mountain West Conference play this Saturday at longtime power BYU, set to become an independent next season.
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