TRI CITY — Juri Moros was barely two weeks off of the plane when he walked onto the field for South Umpqua’s first soccer practice.
A few days later, he would stick around on the fields, working to win the football team’s placekicking job.
Half a world away from home, the exchange student from Germany has been opening eyes in both sports.
Moros led South Umpqua’s coed soccer team to the Class 3A/2A/1A Special District 4 East championship and a state playoff berth. The senior had four hat tricks, including a four-goal game, and was named the SD4 East Player of the Year after scoring 22 total goals.
When he wasn’t committed to his first love, he was working on a newfound challenge as the placekicker for the Lancers’ football team.
And his right foot was paying the price.
“It was lots of playing,” Moros said earlier this week as his Lancers prepared for their first football semifinal playoff game since 1981. “Every second day was a game. It was new to me to have so much games. My foot was starting to hurt at the beginning because I would forget to ice it.
“Sometimes it was hard to practice football kicking a day after a soccer match.”
As is the case with millions of youth in Europe, soccer is their first experience in sports. When Moros first put on a South Umpqua soccer kit, it was clear he was a step ahead of his teammates.
“It was just that he had been playing his entire life in Europe where the competition is so much better,” Lancers soccer coach August Morrison said. “He came here and just outshown everyone else.
“It’s sort of a magnetic thing, him and the ball.”
The first thing Morrison noticed about his newest addition was his tenacity.
“He puts his whole heart out there,” Morrison said. “He’s not necessarily the biggest hustler, but he was all over the pitch for us. And he was always coaching the other players as well. He always wanted his teammates to learn.”
However, Moros’ tenacity would occasionally lead to a butting of the heads between he and his coach.
“He had an idea of how you were supposed to play, and a couple of times I had to pull him off the field,” Morrison said. “’I can’t have you out there not listening to me,’ I told him. It was difficult.
“I had to listen to what he said, but at the same time I had to keep the dynamic of I’m the coach, you’re the player. There was frustration at times, but 99% of the time it was left on the field.”
As Moros was training for the coming season in late August, he was approached by his host brother, Kade Johnson and head football coach Steve Stebbins, about the possibility of kicking for the football team.
It’s not unusual for high school teams to enlist a soccer player as their kicker. It is a little unusual, however, when that player has no concept of what American football is.
“I thought everybody was just tackling everybody without sense,” Moros said. “I came on the field without knowledge.”
Stebbins said when Moros first came to practice, the coaches were trying to decide if he could fit in as maybe a wide receiver or defensive back before quickly realizing Moros’ right foot was his most valuable asset.
The coaches worked him into the position gradually, first kicking on his own, then introducing the idea of a defense trying to block the ball.
“He said, ‘It’s OK, I watched it on YouTube,’” Stebbins said.
Moros admits he has watched a number of online video tutorials on proper technique for kicking the football.
“I was trying to get more power and more swing (in his leg),” Moros said. “I watched a lot of videos to see my improvements get better. I had most of the basics, but to get better I had to watch a lot of videos.”
Moros’ football career got off to a bit of a bumpy start. In South Umpqua’s season opener against Springfield, the Lancers got into field goal range on their first drive and Stebbins ran Moros out to attempt a field goal. Wide right.
The Lancers scored a touchdown on their second possession, and Moros missed the point-after kick.
“He comes to the sideline saying, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry,’” Stebbins said. “I told him, ‘It’s OK. It’s OK.’”
“He got thrown into the fire pretty quick.”
Moros went 3-for-5 on his PAT kicks in that 39-7 win. For the season, Moros has made 49 of his 56 PATs — the Lancers have given him plenty of work on their way to a 10-1 record — but attempted just two field goals, which he missed.
A big and unexpected change came midway through the season when Caj Simmons, the Lancers’ holder on PATs and field goals, had his appendix removed and missed two weeks of action. As a result, Jace Johnson shifted into the holder role, and Moros decided to ditch the kicking pad.
“It was hard for me to kick off the pad,” Moros said of the usually 2-inch-by-3-inch black rubber pad the ball set on to help keep it off of the thick grass. “I was making mistakes in the beginning because the ball was just slipping away. I thought it was easier to kick without it, and I could kick farther.”
Off the field, Moros said one of the biggest adjustments from his home country is the culture within the school itself.
“There’s more cool stuff to do,” he said. “I’m learning to play guitar, there are more activities in the school, and you can really socialize with people. That’s very new to me but a great experience.
“The people are all open and friendly with you. We’re just not used to doing it. People in Germany are a little more rigid.”
Moros understands the importance of the success his soccer and football teams have seen over the past three months, as he is reminded every day by the banners in the gym how long it has been since those programs have thrived.
“People will say, ‘Juri, do you know how special that is for us?’” he said. “You can see it is very special here for everyone and everybody is super hyped.”
Once the fall season is over, Moros said he might take his first crack at two more competitive sports, contemplating basketball this winter and baseball in the spring, a sport he said he has never attempted to play.