An all-state kicker who has booted meaningful field goals dreams of connecting on a game-winner with his team's season in the balance.
But a junior varsity kicker, filling in for the all-state guy? Doesn't he just dream about not messing up?
That's the spot Woodbridge junior Juan Cordova, all 5 feet 2 of him, was in Thursday night when his team trailed Gar-Field with 15 seconds left, facing the distinct possibility of a home loss to a 2-7 team that would prevent the Vikings from reaching the playoffs.
Cordova, who earlier in the game had missed an extra point (blocked) and a 44-yard field goal, coaxed this one through from 39 yards out for a 22-20 win that locked up a Virginia AAA Northwestern Region Division 6 postseason berth.
"It's a position I don't want to be in -- if I miss the field goal," Cordova said after a brief ride on his teammates' shoulders. "But you always want to make the game-winning field goal. I was thinking about this all day. In school, I couldn't even do my work because I was thinking about [it]."
The rousing fourth quarter and finish -- Gar-Field trailed 19-7 headed into the final period before grinding out two 70-yard touchdown drives to take a 20-19 lead with 53 seconds left -- resuscitated, at least for a night, a formerly storied rivalry that had faded in recent years, even if there weren't all that many spectators on hand to witness it.
After Gar-Field junior Maurice Perry bulled in from two yards out for his second touchdown of the fourth period, the Indians tried a squib kick that without bouncing veered toward Woodbridge junior lineman J.P. Kerr, who corralled the ball at his 47-yard line.
From there, Vikings senior quarterback Alex Brown hit junior Jashawn Wright for a 33-yard gain to the Gar-Field 20. After an incompletion, a two-yard Brown loss and another incompletion, in trotted Cordova, a player not even listed on some versions of the Woodbridge roster.
All-state senior kicker Eric Buckenmeyer was in uniform but a knee injury prevented him from kicking during the game. But he had confidence in his pal Cordova.
"I kick with him every day, and he's really good in practice, so I just trust him," said Buckenmeyer, who has connected on six field goals this season, with a long of 46. Cordova has now kicked two.
Well-meaning teammates telling Cordova "no pressure" in the moments before he lined up only underscored the fact that this was indeed a pressure kick.
"I saw he was nervous, definitely," said senior holder Matt Pingol, who cleanly handled the snap from senior Bobby Spadell. "[It was] his facial expression, and I saw him kind of shaking. . . . I was running up the sideline [saying], 'I believe in Juan,' and everybody started cheering. . . . They're both great kickers. We don't expect anything less of him."
"I just pretended like it was practice," said Cordova, who also plays soccer with Buckenmeyer. "I thought it was short at first, but then I saw the whole sideline cheering."
Buckenmeyer and Cordova (a foot shorter than his mentor) spend much of their practice time together on the game field, while the rest of the team works out on the practice field. But when the Vikings work on the kicking game as a team, both Buckenmeyer and Cordova get their repetitions, which is why so many teammates had faith that the backup guy could nail the game-winner.
"I was more worried about them blocking the kick than Juan making it," senior linebacker Zack Weatherington said. "Juan is very consistent in practice."
"He didn't look nervous to me," Woodbridge Coach Keith King said. "When I said, 'Are you ready to go?' he said [enthusiastically], 'Yeah, let's go kick it.' When he kicked it, I think everyone knew it was good.
"The sound of it coming off his foot . . . it looked perfect to us."