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Aponavicius walking on clouds

CHESTNUT HILL -- Boston College kicker Steve Aponavicius strode into the postgame news conference on Saturday night grinning like a jack-o-lantern. It was Halloween, after all, and the former walk-on had just become his school's all-time leading scorer in the Eagles' 31-10 win over Central Michigan.

"It's awesome," Aponavicius said. "It was something going into the year that I knew I had a chance at and to be able to do it really is special."

Aponavicius contributed an 18-yard field goal and four extra points in the win, giving him 267 total points, enough to break place-kicker Brian Lowe's mark of 262 set in 1989.

The record-breaking kick was the field goal, a chip shot with 1:44 to play in the third quarter.

"I knew that was the one," Aponavicius said. "I was just trying to kick it right down the middle."

After the ball sailed through the uprights, Aponavicius was embraced by his teammates. The player his teammates call "Sid Vicious" deferred some of the credit to them, specifically thanking sophomore running back Montel Harris.

"It's been a lot of extra points after Montel touchdowns," he said. "I think he's got a shot at the record now, the way he's scoring."

Harris, a sophomore, has 15 touchdowns this season and 20 for his career, but he has a long way to go.

Aponavicius, a fifth-year senior, has been perfect this season on both field goals (7-for-7) and PATs (33-for-33). It's a remarkable achievement for a player who started his BC days watching the games from the stands.

Before 2006, Aponavicius was just another BC football fan. Then one day, the former Easton High School (Pa.) soccer standout slipped onto the Alumni Stadium field to try his luck at place-kicking. He had never played football before at any level, but he figured that a strong leg was a strong leg, no matter the sport.

After some practice, Aponavicius realized he was good -- good enough, he thought, to possibly crack the football roster. He kept working on his form and wondered whether he would ever be discovered.

Soon enough, he was.

Graduate assistant Jay Civetti had noticed Aponavicius practicing, and he liked what he saw. The football team needed depth at kicker, so Civetti approached Aponavicius and suggested that he go out for the team as a walk-on.

Aponavicius obliged and soon impressed BC's coaches. They decided to give the rookie a shot, and replaced his Superfan T-shirt with an official No. 83 jersey.

Then came his big break: BC's starting kicker, Ryan Ohliger, got suspended, and Aponavicius stepped in.
His first opportunity came during a prime-time game against No. 22 Virginia Tech. The football first-timer responded to the national television pressure by nailing a 36-yard field goal with 9:11 left in the third quarter. His timely kick gave the Eagles a 10-3 lead in a game they would go on to win 22-3.

The rest, as they say, is history.

The nation latched on to his Cinderella story, a scholarship followed, and Aponavicius became BC's starting place-kicker for the final eight games of the 2006 season -- and every game since.

Now he is their all-time leading scorer.

"I think it's great," coach Frank Spaziani said. "It's tremendous for Steve. It's a great story, it really is."

Aponavicius' record came in a game that BC dominated on both sides of the ball. Senior wide receiver Rich Gunnell led the offense with eight catches for 134 yards and a touchdown -- a performance that followed a career-high 179-yard game last week against Notre Dame.

Harris added 136 rushing yards and two scores, and freshman quarterback Dave Shinskie was accurate from the pocket, completing 18 of 28 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown.

The Eagles' defense proved too physical for Central Michigan, holding it to just 10 points, seven of which came in garbage time. BC suffocated the Chippewas' vaunted passing attack, pressuring quarterback Dan LeFevour throughout much of the game. True freshman linebacker Luke Kuechly also continued his stellar play, with 11 total tackles and an interception return for a touchdown.

But when the final horn sounded, the moment belonged to Aponavicius. On this stage, as on so many others since that first night in 2006, the former football neophyte demonstrated a veteran's poise. The sentiment was best summed up by his proud coach.

"To drop out of the student body and come in here, and after a lot of hard work and a lot of time and energy, to become the all-time leading scorer -- that's a great accomplishment that he can be very proud of," Spaziani said. "And we're very, very happy for him."