Since she was a freshman in 2017, Kailey Peters has heard Buena football coach Joe Thomas ask the same question when he taught her during his weight-training class.
When are you going to kick for the football team?
What was once idle conversation became serious over the summer when Peters, a standout with the Colts’ girls soccer team, often went to the football field and practiced kicking field goals for an extended period of time.
“When Coach Thomas has asked me before to join the team, I have been like, ‘No, no,’ but now it’s my senior year. I want to have fun with it. It seems like a great opportunity,” Peters said. “I just felt like, ‘Why not?’ I just decided to do it and here I am.”
Peters figured prominently into Buena’s season-opening 33-20 win last week at San Tan Valley Combs by contributing nine points. She converted two field goals (23 and 25 yards) and three out of four extra-point attempts (the one miss was blocked because a lineman missed an assignment). She also handled the kickoffs.
She will take on the same roles Friday when Buena is scheduled to play at Paradise Valley at 7 p.m. The Colts were originally supposed to play at Salpointe but the game was postponed until Oct. 23 because a Lancer tested positive for COVID-19.
“With having Kailey in my weightlifting class the last couple of years I know she is a strong girl,” Thomas said. “Her technique kicking the ball was good and she was fast.
“I knew she could kick. I knew she had a strong leg. I told her, ‘Come out and kick. Give us a chance.'”
A female playing football with males was never an issue for Thomas, who knew it would not be a novel experiment because of Peters’ skill as a soccer player.
In recent years, this state and region has featured successful female placekickers — Tempe Marcos de Niza’s Krysten Muir (who was trained by Arizona placekicking legend Max Zendejas) and Nogales’ Maile Vasquez.
Neither Muir or Vasquez were subjected to feeling out of place on a team with boys. Peters is experiencing the same type of camaraderie with the Colts.
“I felt like she had a great debut for us as a kicker,” said wideout Keyon Taylor, who is also the holder on kicks for Peters. “Some of the guys and I were talking to her before the game telling her that all she needs is confidence going into the game because she was nervous.
“But after she made our first extra-point, she was feeling confident in herself and she knew that she could get the job done. Everyone was hyping her up after each kick made it easier for her too. We love having her in the team.”
Thomas added that Peters’ high profile with the girls soccer program made her recognizable by all the players and coaches.
“Everybody knows her here,” Thomas said. “She gets along well with the boys. They respect her.”
Peters made two goals last year for the Colts and should be a major contributor this season with Astrid Galvez (five goals last season) exhausting her eligibility. Galvez is now attending Cochise College.
Peters said her background as a soccer player, playing in countless matches since she was 3, helped her from a competition standpoint heading into last week’s game at Combs.
Once Thomas called her name midway through the third quarter to try the 23-year field goal, nothing could prepare her for that feeling.
“Normally, if we have the ball that close inside the 10, I’m going to go for it,” said Thomas, whose team was at the Combs’ 6 yard-line. “I wanted to see what she could do by giving her a chance.”
Peters said “it was actually very nerve-wracking” when she lined up for that field goal attempt, but as Taylor mentioned, the Colts kept the pressure off of her by keeping her loose with encouragement and support.
“There was definitely a great deal of help just having them behind me and trusting what I can do,” she said. “That was a good feeling to have.”
That kick and the 25-yarder were no-doubters. The ball split the uprights with easily about 20 yards to spare.
Many high schools generally do not have placekickers to rely on because coaches see it as a risk with the potential for blocks without size on the line and the questionable leg strength of younger kickers.
Thomas gained assurance from assistant Ryan Grimm, who was an all-region punter only four years ago at Buena, that Peters can sufficiently take on the kicking duties.
“With my background in soccer, it’s safe to say I can definitely boot the ball down the field,” Peters said. “I have to admit transitioning to football was not very easy but Coach Grimm taught me everything I know. I definitely owe it all to him.
“He taught me how to go through all the fundamentals and the steps. He was just very helpful and supportive. Things transitioned very nicely from soccer to football.”
Playing with boys is not an obstacle for Peters.
She kicked any concern about being accepted since her freshman year when Thomas, a respected teacher on campus, started to make his plea for her to join the Colts.
“I came in knowing that I had to work just the same amount as the boys did,” Peters said. “I didn’t expect anything different because I was a girl.
“I knew that they would not treat me like a boy. They just welcomed me in and had my back, just like a family would.”
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.