The football sailed off Ryan Deiter's right foot, traveling end over end as it arched high above the middle of the field and passed through the uprights nearly 40 yards away.
The River Hill senior place kicker watched the two referees raise their arms, sparking a raucous celebration on the Hawks' side of the field midway through the final quarter against Mount Hebron on Oct. 23.
After his ensuing kickoff, Deiter raced to the sideline and removed the shoe he'd used to give his team a 19-17 lead it would not relinquish to clinch its second consecutive county title.
"Maybe the best $120 my parents have ever spent," he said. "That shoe makes all the difference."
Deiter's kicking shoe is different from the standard football cleat he wears when he's playing linebacker. His kicking shoe has a square toe, not a rounded one. Deiter needs the custom-made footwear because he is a straight-on kicker, meaning he lines up two steps directly behind where the holder spots the ball. When the ball is snapped, Deiter uses his toes to drive the ball in a straight line.
Deiter's style puts him in the minority. Most kickers are "soccer style" booters, who line up diagonally to the holder and strike the football with the top of their foot as they lean back.
"I've never played soccer in my life," Deiter said. "So it's not natural for me to kick the ball that way."
Deiter's approach is just fine for him, and his team. He's made five of six field goal attempts this season -- three from beyond 26 yards -- and has made 34 of 41 extra points. He's also just as effective on kickoffs, as 35 of his 58 have landed in the end zone for a touchback.
"Ryan gives River Hill a huge advantage because there are not a lot of kickers that can kick the ball into the end zone as often as he can," said Mount Hebron Coach Larry Luthe. "When you play River Hill, any time they kick off you don't have the chance to get a good return to get good field position. You have to go 80 yards to be able to score, and that's tough to do."
Kicking is just one of Deiter's responsibilities. He's also a starting linebacker for a unit that has allowed a county-low 103 points this season, as he's made 62 tackles and forced two fumbles to lead the undefeated Hawks to their second consecutive county title.
"I know the reputation kickers have," Deiter said. "People don't think they are true football players because all they do is kick."
Deiter, who began kicking for the Sykesville Raiders and Howard County Trojans in eighth grade because neither team had a kicker, changes his mentality as often as his shoe.
"Playing kicker and linebacker are totally different," he said. "When I'm kicking, I have to be calm and focused, but when I'm playing linebacker, I'm intense and ready to explode every play. The two couldn't be more opposite."