Sacred Heart-Griffin boys football coach Mike Lindsey knows he has a special player in Kyle Ward.
The coach knows this since the now senior netted 14 goals and 10 assists as a first-year back in 2019. This led to his recognition as a all-section picks by Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association.
“I’ve actually been warned that this kid Kyle Ward, coming into first grade, he might be the best kid to ever come out of Springfield,” Lindsey said. “I’ve been told that. I’m not saying he is – I’ve coached a lot of good guys in my years here. He had the talent then (but) he didn’t have the size ( then) that he has now.
“His determination is a lot; the drive for him only grows. Some of the things he tells me he does at night, after games, he takes care of himself.
All Ward has done since then is earn IHSSCA All-State honors as a second and junior.
Ward has 20 goals and 17 assists for the 15-1 Cyclones. He registered 20 goals and 11 assists in the COVID-19 shortened 2021 season and followed that up with 17 goals and 21 assists throughout the 2021 fall season. He helped SHG win the Divisional Championship class 1A in Carlinville.
Grow with football
For most of his football career – which Ward says started at the age of 3 – he played in a forward or midfield role. But he embraces it when coaches ask him to consider playing elsewhere.
“I’ve been a striker and a midfielder all my life, but I went to college camps and they moved me to right-back, which is definitely a new position,” Ward said. “I think with my speed and my athleticism it suits me pretty well and I’ve learned to play in all positions on the pitch.”
After SHG beat Dunlap 3-0 on Saturday, Dunlap coach Allan Hansen said Ward’s versatility and ability to play anywhere puts players like him “head and shoulders above others”.
“Oh yes, he will excel in any position I put him in,” Lindsey said. “Yes, he’s a special player, and it doesn’t take much. I’m not bragging: he works hard at it, all his life. He’s focused, determined (and) determined, but I would say he is a bit on a higher level.
Despite Ward’s ability to create space to peek into the net, he said he has become more determined to give his team the best scoring chance. It was an important point for this season, he said.
“I’ve always been a competitor and always wanted to try and win these things myself, but with the teammates I have and the level and talent we have, I trust them and let them. their thing,” Ward said. .
“I personally feel like a facilitator. I love to score and that’s what I do but I prefer to see my teammates succeed and put themselves in the best position to win. I’d rather win the game than have the most team stats.
Lindsey said he saw that part of Ward’s game improve.
“He is very selfless; it’s about winning the game for him,” Lindsey said. “He wants to score – no doubt – and he likes when he scores, he really likes that, but he understands what we’re trying to do with the program this year and it’s not about individuals; acts of the team.
“He’s doing what he has to do to make us win.”
Perhaps the Cyclones’ deadliest play could be Ward taking the corner kick and finding his teammate and fellow senior Parker Boatman. It happened again on Saturday as Boatman’s header gave the Cyclones a 2-0 lead. Ward, who also assisted on Tom Davis’ first goal, put the game aside with the third goal in the second half.
“We have a few different plays for corner kicks that we don’t even bother to call (because Ward to Boatman) is too powerful,” Lindsey said. “Until we meet a team that can stop that – which we haven’t. Kyle plays a really good ball from the corner and Parker opens up and he can get his head on the ball.
Despite all the praise, Ward doesn’t think he’s reached his best yet.
“Every year I seem to get better, I haven’t peaked and that’s what I’m looking forward to, that’s the next level,” Ward said.
Contact Ryan Mahan: 788-1546, [email protected], Twitter.com/RyanMahanSJR.