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Prose and Kohn: Riverview High kicker makes history

Allison Kukanza is the first female football player to score a point for the Rams.

Allison Kukanza is the first female football player to score a point in Riverview High history.
Allison Kukanza is the first female football player to score a point in Riverview High history.
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Allison Kukanza is a kicker, but her journey started with a Hail Mary. 

Flash back to August, right before the fall sports season was supposed to begin. After receiving news that her club soccer season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the germ of an idea began to form in Kukanza, a senior at Riverview High. She wanted to stay active, but she also wanted to stick to her strength: kicking a ball a long way, and with accuracy. Kukanza was friends with a few members of the Rams' football team, so she threw out a half-joke to them: What if she joined the football team? She can kick, after all. 

Her friends responded not with laughs but with enthusiasm. Why not at least try? So Kukanza did. She got Coach Josh Smithers' number and texted him, telling him she was out of town but would be back soon, and she was interested in becoming a kicker. She attached a video of her kicking. 

"At first, I didn't know how serious she was," Smithers said. "I told her, 'Well, when you get back down here, let's see you kick.'"

By this point, Kukanza was all business. She happily accepted Smithers' invitation, got her paperwork in to the athletics department and attended a practice. Smithers said he could tell she was a soccer player from the way she kicked the ball. That first practice, Kukanza missed her first few kicks — understandable, it being a new sport and everyone watching her and all. But then she made a few, giving her enough confidence to keep at it. 

Slowly, she began to improve — and transform into a real kicker, not a soccer player masquerading as one. Kukanza said the coaching staff started giving her individual instruction, which helped a lot. Smithers said he can tell the difference just by looking at her stance. What impressed him the most, though, was her attitude. After one early-season practice, Smither said, Kukanza went to him and asked him not to treat her differently than anyone else. She could take the intensity, she told him. 

"After that, I thought, 'OK, this girl is tough,'" Smithers said. "She understands competition. When she said that, I was sold."

So Kukanza stayed on the team, working every day to be the best kicker she could be. A nice story, even if it ended there.

Did it? Hardly. 

The Rams (3-1) played Lennard High (2-1) at home Oct. 2. Riverview had the game in hand, so when the team punched in a late score, Smithers decided to give Kukanza a chance to show everyone how much she had grown in such a short time. He called for her to try the extra point. 

The snap was good. The hold was good. The kick was good

In that instant, Kukanza became the first female football player to score a point for Riverview High. Well, Smithers is "99.9% sure" of that fact — the schools' records from the 1980s, etc., are tough to sort through, but in all likelihood, he said, it's Kukanza's mark to hold forever. 

"I wasn't thinking anything during the kick," Kukanza said. "After it went through, I heard all the guys yelling my name. It made me so happy. I could not stop smiling."

Kukanza said she has received messages from girls at Riverview saying they are going to try out for the team next season, just like her. Being their inspiration feels good, Kukanza said. Sometimes, she said, she loses confidence in herself. Kicking is hard. But knowing there are people out there looking up to her, admiring her journey? That makes it too important to stress over a missed kick here and there. Kukanza has to be confident for those girls, so she is. 

And still, her story is not compelte. Smithers said Kukanza's extra point will not be a one-time, feel-good story. He's going to send her out there again, and again — probably in the team's next game, Oct. 16 against (Hillsborough) Riverview. She's earned her opportunities, he said. Kukanza said she won't pursue football kicking at the next level. This is a special circumstance, but one she's glad to be in, and one that could reverberate. 

"I said to her, 'When you come back here in 20 or 30 years and you see a girl booting a 40-yard field goal, you'll know you were the first one," Smithers said. 



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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