Soccer: Ram girls begin year with former ISU kicker, Peyton Paddock as head coach
By BRANDON HURLEY
The Greene County girls’ soccer team will have more of a Division I feel this spring.
The Rams, winners of nine games in their first two seasons of varsity action combined, including three victories in 2019, are now under the guidance of a coach with elite-level experience.
Former Iowa State University placekicker Peyton Paddock takes over as girls soccer head coach as the 2021 schedule nears. The Monticello High School graduate handled full-time kickoff duties for the Cyclones in 2019, a season in which the Ames squad was 7-6 and earned a trip to Camping World Bowl against Notre Dame.
Paddock earned back-to-back all-state honors as a high school kicker in 2013 and 2014. He also handled punting duties for Monticello, securing a well-rounded average of 41.7 yards per punt, eventually resulting in Class 2A, District 4 kicker of the year honors. Paddock’s senior year was aided by a Class 2A best field goal of 51 yards in 2014.
Paddock, a 2015 graduate of Monticello High School, holds the school record for goals in a game as well as career goals (40), three times scoring at least 12 goals in a single season, including a double-digit output as a freshman.
Despite his gridiron success as a prep, Paddock hadn’t much considered a top-tier college career back in 2015. He dreamed of one day kicking for an elite program, but didn’t put too much thought into it and committed to Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Then, Iowa State’s interest picked up, quickly changing Paddock’s mind. The coaches often called the strong-legged athlete between classes and eventually offered the kicker a walk-on spot.
“It was a little surreal,” Paddock said. “It was always a dream of mine to compete at the highest level.”
Paddock, who’s now in his second year as a special education teacher at the Greene County High School, wore No. 38 as a Cyclone, blasting kicks into the field of play following many momentum-shifting scoring drives.
As an important piece of the puzzle, but still a placekicker with plenty of time on his hands in between appearances, Paddock studied the tendencies of one of the hottest coaching commodities in the nation, Matt Campbell, when he arrived in the spring of 2016, after Paddock’s freshman year. ISU’s winningest coach by winning percentage earned a pair of Big 12 coach of the year honors while Paddock was with the program (2017 & 2018).
The Greene County coach noticed Campbell’s emphasis on school work and how dedicated academics correlate to on-field success. That, and the coach’s attention to detail.
“If we do stuff right in the classroom that will usually translate on the field,” Paddock said. “If you struggled in the classroom you’d usually struggle on the field, and vice versa.
(Campbell) also focuses on the little details, like starting behind the line and finishing through. Going back to the fundamentals and doing the little things right.”
Paddock was drawn to Campbell’s straight-forward attitude, a no-nonsense style that’s approachable but effective, one which lets the athlete know where they stand. At the same time, he’s not willing to accept anything less than greatness. Campbell’s philosophy really struck a chord with Paddock, one he hopes to develop through his own strategy in the coming months.
“He’s up and going and a great leader,” Paddock said. “(Campbell) leads by example. He does things right on and off the field.
His practices are uptempo. We get conditioning done throughout practice instead of in warm-ups, and we will do some of that here (at Greene County).”
Paddock, in his first foray as head coach of a high school program, takes over a team still in search of an identity. The Rams have struggled to sustain consistent success over their first two years of existence, which certainly was not aided by last season’s cancelled schedule. The Rams were anxious to make some noise behind a veteran roster in 2020 before the Coronavirus shuttered those plans.
Perhaps it’s coincidental timing, but as Paddock is feeling out his own philosophy as a coach, the Rams are also attempting to gain a foothold in the soccer realm. The two entities can grow together, helping one another seek out improvement on the path to greatness.
“I think that’s honestly still a work in progress. There’s going to be some give and take and trial and errors,” Paddock said. “I’ll make sure we’re open and communicating with everything. It’s going to be a learning experience.”
Greene County sports a roster short on experience and long on excitement. The Rams are essentially starting from scratch outside of a few 2019 holdovers. They do not possess a single athlete who scored a goal two years ago, needing to replace 100 percent of their scoring. Greene County tallied just 11 total goals in 19 games in 2019.
Senior Eliza Carlson, who started a number of games in goal as a sophomore in 2019, will now move into the field to offer up her offensive talents. Paddock was drawn to her aggressiveness and hopes her physical playing style can rub off on the younger athletes.
Conner Allender started 14 games as a sophomore while Julia Follett also snagged two starts as an underclassmen. Other than that, the Rams are left without much varsity experience.
With such a young and green roster at his disposal, Paddock has zeroed in on growing a passion among the girls, hoping success naturally follows. Soccer is still a relatively new sport in terms of county-wide popularity, which leaves the Greene County program often attracting athletes with little experience in the sport. It’s a tough obstacle to face at the start, but definitely one Paddock isn’t afraid to attempt to overcome.
“I’m trying to help instill some of the love into the game for the girls,” the coach said. “Teaching them how to play the game, get to know the rules. Those are some of the main things, but more or less, just helping the girls grow up, not only as athletes, but as people as well.”
Goalie is perhaps one of the biggest question marks as the season begins. Paddock hadn’t nailed down a starter last week, though the coach is keeping an eye out for an athletic and passionate keeper.
“Obviously, length is nice, but you also have to be agile,” the coach said. “Have a little quick twitch. Someone who is not afraid of taking a ball to the chest on a hard shot.”
Greene County opens the 2021 season with a pair of 2A foes. The Rams begin the year Thursday, April 8 on the road against Carroll. The Rams host their home-opener the following night, taking on Perry at 7 p.m. April 9 in Grand Junction.