RIDGEFIELD — Adam Biernat felt uneasy — just not as much as he had a few minutes earlier.
“To be honest, I was more nervous for the extra point,” said Biernat, the senior placekicker on the Ridgefield football team. “I needed to make that to tie the game.”
Biernat did, sending his PAT kick between the uprights to even Friday night’s game against New Canaan at 14-14 with just under three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Following a Ridgefield interception and a 53-yard pass from quarterback Owen Matthews to running back Kai Prohaszka, Biernat was back on the field. This time it was to attempt a game-winning 37-yard field goal with 2.4 seconds remaining.
New Canaan called one timeout then another, hoping to rattle Biernat, who had missed two earlier field goal tries. But those stoppages had the opposite effect: Instead of giving Biernat the jitters, they allowed him time to focus.
“The timeouts actually eased my nerves,” he said. “On the second timeout, I was able to line up the kick pretty well. That gave me confidence.”
With New Canaan fans and players digging into their psych-out playbooks for methods to unsettle him, Biernat let his right foot have the final say. Nearly deflected along the line of scrimmage, his kick gained helium and sailed inside the left upright, giving Ridgefield a 17-14 upset victory over the state’s third-ranked team and setting off a turf-shaking celebration at Tiger Hollow.
“Some of the New Canaan fans were referring to me by my number (99) and saying I couldn’t make the kick,” Biernat said. “And the New Canaan players were yelling at me and telling me they were going to swat away the ball.
“But once it cleared the line, I knew it was going to be good,” Biernat added. “I could tell from the way my foot went through the ball.”
It was a physical sensation that Biernat had learned from soccer, the sport he played his first three years at Ridgefield High. The thought of switching to football arose following the end of the 2018-19 soccer season, which was Biernat’s third straight on junior varsity.
“Soccer wasn’t my sport anymore,” he said. “I didn’t see myself as a fit for the team going forward.”
After some friends told Biernat that the football team would need a kicker this fall, he began practicing in March.
“I definitely wasn’t the best those first days,” he said. “But once I got the fundamentals down, it went a lot better.”
When Biernat emerged as the team’s starter during the preseason, he became the third former soccer player in as many years to make the football team as a senior placekicker.
“I knew Sebastian Gasparo, who went from soccer to football and was the kicker last year,” Biernat said. “It seems to be a trend.”
“We’re glad to take them,” Ridgefield football coach Kevin Callahan said during the preseason when talking about Biernat and his recent predecessors. “One year is better than none if you need a kicker and they are good at it. It’s a big help for us.”
Last Friday night, it certainly was.