Peering around the West Hills Chaminade Prep football locker room, there are giant white-and-blue helmets hanging from each stall. You got to have a pretty big head to fit in one of those helmets. Stop by Ryon Sayeri’s stall and it becomes clear he’s either the ball boy or the kicker, because a bag filled with footballs rests in his stall.
In his own unique way, Sayeri is having the kind of football season every coach dreams for a special teams player. He’s 32 of 32 on PATs, has made six of seven field-goal attempts and only three times all season have his kickoffs not become touchbacks. He’s also averaging 52.6 yards on 10 punts.
“I have a lot of confidence in him,” said coach David Machuca, whose team is 7-0 going into a Mission League showdown at La Puente Bishop Amat (5-2) on Friday night.
For two seasons, Sayeri has been nearly perfect. He has made 65 consecutive conversion kicks and is 13 of 15 on field-goal attempts. He made a 47-yard field goal last week. His only miss this season came from 57 yards. It was long enough but slightly wide. All week during practice before the game against Encino Crespi, Sayeri was lobbying Machuca to try one from beyond 55 yards.
“He kept begging me, ‘Coach, I can make it,’” Machuca said. “I turned on the sideline and he was like standing over my shoulder.”
It was good preparation for the game coming either this season or next season when Chaminade needs a long field goal to win. Sayeri has already delivered a game-winner this season, from 18 yards, to defeat San Juan Capistrano JSerra.
“I don’t know why, but I like the heat,” Sayeri said. “I like it when people think I’m going to miss. I love the pressure. During halftimes, I stay on the field to warm up and always go toward the away fans to hear what they are saying to me.”
His goal before he graduates is to break the state record for longest field goal, which is 64 yards.
“I think 100 percent by senior year I can break that,” he said.
Sayeri started playing soccer at age 3 because his mother and father were big soccer fans, having come from Iran to the United States as young children. His dad, Matt, played football at Granada Hills Kennedy. Sayeri figured out he might have a leg for kicking just before he entered high school.
“I started kicking a soccer ball 50, 60 yards and no one my age could do that,” he said.
He went to Calabasas High and ran into former college kicker Cole Murphy, who was giving lessons. Murphy said he was impressed with his leg strength and offered to teach him how to kick a football.
“He’s developed into quite a specialist,” Murphy said. “He just needed a little work.”
Sayeri fits in perfectly with the psyche of a kicker. He embraces being the lone wolf, practicing on his own and understands the hero/goat situation that comes with kicking.
“You could go flawless your entire career but once you miss one, everyone points out the one you missed,” he said. “I was watching the Missouri game and their kicker missed the game-winning field goal against Auburn and you feel it because you put yourself in that situation.”
Former Chaminade punter Jack Stonehouse, now at Missouri, taught Sayeri how to punt, but it’s not his favorite role.
“I don’t like punting much,” he said. “Punting is more about your hands than leg. If you hold the ball slightly wrong …”
Chaminade is beginning a three-game stretch that will reveal where the Eagles get seeded for the playoffs. Tough games are ahead against Bishop Amat, Chatsworth Sierra Canyon and Gardena Serra. Sayeri, though, is looking forward to making contributions, aided by long snapper Hayden Morse and holder Alessandro Garrett.
“It’s pretty fun being on the team,” he said.
Murphy said whenever Sayeri steps onto the field, “He just turns it on. It’s incredible.”
His parents are still getting used to seeing him on the sideline next to 300-pound teammates.
“My parents look, ‘There’s a huge guy next you.’ I’m out of place,” Sayeri said with a sly smile, spoken like a kicker.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.