The make calmed Payne, and it calmed the coaching staff.
“After taking a year off, you wonder if he is ready in the first game,” said Perry. “The first one was the biggest. It was a tough kick and he put it right through the uprights.”
In the second quarter, he then kicked his first extra point and then he booted his second field goal, an 18-yarder right before halftime.
But that pressure was nothing compared to his next task.
With 1:53 left in regulation, Andover scored to make the score 26-25, North Andover. Payne was then asked to tie the contest.
“The tying kick was even scarier than the winner,” he said. “If I missed it, then we lost the game. On the winner, if I missed we just kept playing. I have never been more nervous trying a kick.”
But it sailed through the uprights, leading to overtime and more Payne heroics with the winning extra point after North Andover scored but failed on a two-point conversion.
“The nervous level was really high but everyone told me I could do it,” he said. “I just focused on the ball. Once Keenan put his hand up, I just watched the ball and zoned out the crowd. Watching it go through was amazing, and then I just celebrated with the team. I’m sure happy I came back.”
And his teammates are pretty glad as well.
“Having him back is a huge plus for the team,” said Keenan. “It’s tough to have the game resting on one kick, but he came through.”
Three for one
Payne may have made the kicks, but the operation was a three-part deal including snapper Dylan Ring and holder Keenan.
“Cam and I had been snapping on the JV team last year,” said Ring, who also plays defensive line. “So we felt like we would be the group this season. But we knew we would have a new kicker and we had to develop a routine with him. We worked a lot during games as well.”