ROY — After what Ben Aikuli has had to endure in his young and harrowing life, kicking a game-winning field goal at the final gun was no pressure.
No pressure at all.
Heck, no. Real pressure is fleeing from Africa as a boy after his parents were murdered in the civil unrest that has plagued Congo. Pressure is finding his way to America, where he hoped to find a place to live and, somewhere, someday, have a normal life.
So when Aikuli, a junior at Roy High School, stepped up to try a 33-yard field goal with three seconds left in Friday night's game against traditional rival Weber, he was feeling very little pressure.
After all, he's been through much, much worse. And bedlam of the best kind ensued when Aikuli sent his last-gasp kick sailing right through the uprights to give the Royals a dramatic 17-14 come-from-behind victory in their annual Shield Game with the Warriors.
"Oh, I don't know, pressure for sure, but during my practice and everything, you know, they give me a little pressure to just get my head up," he said. "I just get my head up and stuff and it just happened today and it's really a great day. I'm really thankful.
"I felt my heart kind of dropped a little bit," Aikuli said of the Warriors' attempt to ice him by calling a timeout before his decisive field goal attempt. "I just had that feeling; I saw the whole field goal posts right there and I just said, 'I've just got to put the ball in the middle and it just happened.' ... I think we did great today, and I'm really proud.
"I've never thought of myself as being a hero, and it's just like the best feeling ever — everybody running to you and giving you a hug. It really feels great."
Until Aikuli's leg settled things, the two teams had waged a defensive struggle with Weber (1-1) shutting down Roy's high-powered offense for nearly three full quarters.
Roy scored first on Tyler Skidmore's 34-yard strike to Logan LaRose on a gutsy fourth-and-11 play, but the Warriors immediately answered on an 80-yard bomb from Cole Dean to Kyle McFarlane. Gabe Madsen's PAT gave Weber a 7-6 edge with 1.6 seconds left in the first quarter, and the Warriors took a 14-6 halftime lead on Dean's 6-yard TD toss to Austin Dew.
It stayed that way until the final four minutes, when Skidmore's 39-yard completion to LaRose set up Skidmore's 2-yard touchdown plunge. Skidmore then passed to Baby Tee Eteuati for the two-point conversion that tied it at 14.
Then with time running out, Skidmore found LaRose again on a 31-yard pass play, and Skylar Hoover tore off an 18-yard gain to get the Royals to Weber's 20. Six plays later, Aikuli got his chance and indeed emerged as the hero.Comment on this story
"It brings tears to my eyes," Roy coach Fred Fernandes said. "There's a lot of pressure in that situation, but compared to what he's seen, that wasn't any pressure.
"He stepped up and hit that through, and it was just right down the middle. He probably could've made it from 50 (yards). That was something else, especially to lose his parents like he did and I'm just so happy for him.
"That's a great football team that we just played," he said. "I take my hat off to Weber. They kicked our butts from the opening kickoff and somehow we found a way to win. We had to have a couple of big plays to get down into scoring position and get in position to win the game, and luckily we just made one or two more plays than they did."