Marist coach Pat Dunne remembers sharing a laugh with kicker Ben Falloon when Glenbard North tried to ice him in the final seconds of last year’s Class 8A semifinal.
Moments later, Falloon retook the field, calmly kicked the ball 24 yards through the goal posts and sent Marist into the state championship.
“He’s one of the guys who’s absolutely cool as a cucumber,” Dunne said. “He has no emotion. There are a lot of great legs, but can they kick in the clutch? I think he’s proven that. He’s so mentally strong.”
For Falloon, the ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week, kicking in what others may perceive as pressure-filled situations has never been difficult. Beginning with his first game-winning field goal to beat Naperville North in the playoffs as a sophomore, he’s always felt at ease when the game is on the line.
“Basically, I try to treat every kick the same whether it’s an extra point or a 50-yard field goal,” Falloon said. “If you treat a kick different, that’s when you fall in trouble. I’ve always enjoyed the game atmosphere. Personally, I think I perform better in games than practices. I have never felt pressure. I just try to do my job and have fun with it.
“People always ask me what I was thinking about. Really, I don’t think about anything, to be honest. You don’t really remember. You just do your job.”
It’s not until Falloon goes back to watch the game tape that he realizes everything else that was happening around him.
“There are things you don’t really see because you’re focused on what you’re doing,” Falloon said. “People rushing in, how they close they might have been, the other team. It’s interesting to see what’s going on. It’s not so much blocking it out as much as focusing on the one thing I need to do. I trust the holder to get the ball down. I trust the line to keep the other team away.”
Falloon’s value as a kicker is beyond being clutch. He’s also powerful and accurate. For the season, he’s connected on 5 of 7 field goals. He’s made from 28, 32, 40, 43 and 50 yards. He’s also forced 16 touchbacks in 19 attempts. Plus, he punts.
As for his misses this season, he had a 40-yard attempt tipped at the line, and he was just short from 56 yards.
“I’m absolutely confident in him from 56 yards,” Dunne said. “He’s made 60-yard field goals in practice pretty easily.”
Aside from giving Dunne a weapon that few high school coaches have, Falloon’s work ethic also has made him endearing. His workouts may be different than the other players, but Falloon spends as much time as anyone in practice and in the weight room.
“He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen,” Dunne said. “He’s never complacent. He’s continually working to get even better.”
Part of Falloon’s motivation is his desire to play college football, and that appears as if it will become a reality next season. So far, he’s heard from a number of MAC, Ivy League and Big Ten schools, including Northwestern.
Most colleges don’t make decisions on kickers until late in the recruiting process, so Falloon likely won’t know where he will play next year until after this season. Until then, he’s focused on helping Marist to another successful year.
On Friday, he and the RedHawks will take a crack at No. 5 Carmel. Not that Falloon wants the East Suburban Catholic Conference match up to be decided by a late field goal, but he’ll be ready if it does.
“I would rather my team not be in a tough situation,” Falloon said. “If it comes down to a field goal, either way I would love to help my team in that matter. I would just treat it like any kick. It would be great. Either way, we just want to win the game.”