Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Pelham's Kearney making mark on pitch and gridiron
By Mike Abelson
PELHAM, N.H. –- Harley Kearney's feet have had a hand in many of his successes.
The senior at Pelham High is a star of on the Python's soccer team with a team-record 26 goals so far this season. He's also the starting kicker for Pelham's undefeated football team and has converted on all but two of his kicks this season.
How does he handle it? With a smile, and coaches that are willing to let his skills flourish.
“Last year I couldn't [kick for both sports],” Kearney said. “This being my senior year though I said why not.”
Kearney practices full-time with the soccer team and only puts on the shoulder pads during games. Football coach Ryan Clark said that Kearney is embraced by his team even though he doesn't practice with them full time. He said everyone's happy because Kearney's an extra weapon on the field.
“A single kid didn't make an extra point at tryouts,” Clark said. “When Harley shows up and is banging them from 40 yards everyone's like 'we're all good'. Everyone knows him from school so there's no issues whatsoever.”
Soccer coach Matt Miller said he was fine with Kearney going out for football, as long as he didn't stick his nose into the pile.
“All I thought was as long as you don't try to make a tackle or get hurt you can do that and get the most out of your senior year,” Miller said.
Soccer, by his own admission, is Kearney's first love. Having played the game his entire life Kearney developed a scorer's touch and has been able to show it off during his four-year varsity career.
Kearney scored two goals as a freshman before improving to 10 as a sophomore and a then-school record 22 goals last year. Kearney has six hat tricks this season and rang up a season-high five goals in a 10-0 win over Franklin on Sept. 30.
Miller said he's amazed by some of the things Kearney can do with a ball at his feet.
“Sometimes it's just crazy to watch him; it's unreal,” Miller said. “Even when he's being double-covered, he's still finding a way to control the ball and burst into an opening.”
Aside from starring on the pitch, Kearney's also just 28 points away from joining the 100-point club in lacrosse, and he runs track during the winter for conditioning.
Standing just 5-foot-8, Kearney isn't the biggest or strongest player on the field but he uses his speed and guile to get past his opposition in situations big or small.
In last year's state lacrosse semifinal game, down a goal to Hollis-Brookline in the waning seconds, Kearney got the ball and rifled home a goal to tie the game.
His then lacrosse coach Matt Regan said that Kearney has “it.” Regan stepped down after the season to concentrate on coaching the Pelham boys basketball team.
“He's got a knack for being in the right spot and putting the ball in the back of the net,” Regan said. “He has great determination; no matter what's going on he just keeps persevering and fights all the time.”
As far as his future goes, Kearney has gotten looks from Plymouth State to play both soccer and lacrosse as well as Springfield College for soccer. Kearney said that his choice will come down to a simple decision.
“Whoever gives me the most money for college; I'll come play for anyone for the right number,” Kearney said with a smile and a laugh. “If I had my choice I'd play soccer just because I've been around it my whole life and my dad loves watching me.”
THE HAIR As October is the breast cancer awareness month numerous teams and athletes at all levels of competition do what they can by going pink for the month. Kearney wanted to help spread the message ,and he did so in a unique and strange way; he cut his hair into a mohawk and dyed it a deep pink.
“I just love the mohawk,” Kearney said with a smile. “I feel like it's very vibrant; people ask about it all the time.”
Kearney said that he wanted to imitate New England Revolution star Diego Fagundez.
“It's definitely a good conversation starter,” Kearney said.
EXCITED AND EBULLIENT Not only is Kearney a star of the field, but he's also a clown in the locker room. From the mohawk to his constant smile, Kearney looks as if he genuinely would rather be nowhere else than with his teammates. His coaches echo that sentiment.
“He's got a very childlike attitude when it comes to playing,” Miller said. “ He just loves being out here competing. It's awesome to watch him all the time.”
“He's just a goofball,” Regan said. “He doesn't have to be serious all the time, but when the whistle blows he's ready to go. He's always been the guy who lightens the mood no matter the moment [but] as soon as it's live he's all business.”
Kearney and many of his teammates have been playing together for years and suiting up together is about much more than wearing the same uniform.
“It's just a family environment,” Kearney said. “I've been around these kids forever, and it's just going to be sad seeing them go. I'll have new friends in college, but these are the kids I grew up with.”