By Ben Kaufmann
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in our October 3, 2019 print edition. Go to mkt.com/courier to subscribe to stay up to date with local news and sports coverage.
ST. ALBANS – When his freshman star came to him four years ago and expressed a desire to add football kicker to his fall workload, BFA-St. Albans soccer coach Luke Laroche said he had just one rule for the student who has gone on to lead his team in scoring each year since.
“Once you kick the football, get out of the way,” Laroche said he told Kam Dunsmore and Bobwhite football coach Geoff Murray.
Asked what he would do if, following one of his booming football kickoffs, an opposing returner got loose, Dunsmore paused a few seconds.
“Um, well,” the senior standout hesitated, considering the feelings of both of his fall coaches before ultimately settling on the needs of whichever teammates in green and gold would be surrounding him at such a moment. “I’m not going to have him score a touchdown.”
That commitment to athletic success has served both BFA soccer and football incredibly well for the past four years. As good as any place-kicker in the state, Dunsmore is on the shortlist of top male soccer players in Vermont. On Friday afternoon, he scored BFA’s lone goal -a stunning free kick from more than 20 yards out- in its overtime loss to Burlington before heading over to the football field and drilling all three extra-point attempts he faced in BFA’s 21-13 Homecoming win over Hartford.
“He could easily play football just as well as soccer,” said Murray. “He’s a great soccer player, we all know that, but it’s been great to have him here.”
All apologies to Murray, but football was never going to be the go-to for Dunsmore. Giving place-kicking a try the summer before his freshman year at the suggestion of his father, Dunsmore enjoyed it and had a natural talent. After losing Robert Kelley -arguably the best kicker in Vermont high school football history- to graduation, Murray was happy to have a true kicker on his team once again.
“They knew my job and I think they were happy they had somebody they could depend on to put the ball through the uprights if they need it,” Dunsmore said of the reception he received as a part-time player.
The senior participated fully in the preseason with the football team, but now joins the squad for about 15 minutes of special teams work the day before a game and is otherwise 100% soccer. After a couple of conflicts that left the football team without a kicker during Dunsmore’s freshman year, Bobwhite Athletic Director Dan Marlow has avoided scheduling any conflicting games on Saturday afternoons.
Extra point attempts and field goals in Vermont football are not the high-percentage operations you see on NFL Sundays. Murray knows a kicker is a luxury.
“This is high school,” Murray said after Friday’s game, one in which each of Dunsmore’s kickoffs sailed out of the end zone for a stress-free touchback. “You’ve got to have a snap, you’ve got to have a hold, it’s not an easy task. That’s why a lot of teams go for two. But we’ve been fortunate to have guys who really like to kick.”
And Dunsmore certainly does like to kick. He’s fairly automatic on extra points (a penalty backing up one of BFA’s attempts by five yards on Friday didn’t force the slightest hesitation from Murray to keep Dunsmore on the field) and has already nailed a 38-yard field goal this season to go along with a 44-yarder his sophomore year. The senior insists his range extends around 50 yards if the need arises.
But his favorite place to kick is on the soccer field, and that is where he truly excels. BFA has spent the year near the top of the Division I standings thanks in large part to Dunsmore, who is leading the team in scoring for a fourth straight year.
A brutal closing schedule threatens BFA’s position near the top of the playoff bracket, but with Dunsmore on the field, BFA will never be out of a game.
“We try to stay in front of him and just kind of contain him,” said Burlington soccer coach Fran Demasi. “If you lunge in, he’s going to beat you every single time. He’s a big dude and he’s good. He’s very skillful and he’s got speed. He’s one of the better players in the metro, no question.”
Opposing coaches in both sports will probably be glad to see Dunsmore move on next year. An astonished Hartford football assistant -presumably one who hasn’t seen Dunsmore before- muttered a phrase unfit for print upon seeing Dunsmore’s first kickoff on Friday night.
In the first week of the season, Dunsmore traveled to Jericho twice; kicking two field goals in a 12-8 football win over Mt. Mansfield before returning and scoring the winner in a 2-1 soccer victory over the Cougars.
“Everybody around the league knows who he is,” Laroche said of Dunsmore. “He’s been man-marked and double-teamed all year long. I think he expects that every game he plays and he’s more than happy to take that role on and try to get us opportunities when he can.”
While there is certainly a need for football kickers, and BFA has proved the double-duty feasible, such a tall task isn’t for just any high schooler with a pair of cleats. Both BFA coaches talked about Dunsmore’s work ethic. BFA girls soccer coach Ben Marlow recalled Dunsmore showing up to offseason conditioning workouts in a weighted vest. After attending St. Joseph’s College of Maine to play soccer (St. Joseph’s doesn’t have a football team, if you were curious), Dunsmore plans to enlist in the Navy with the aim of training to become a SEAL.
“He is a great kid and he’s one of the hardest workers you’ll meet,” Murray said.
Laroche has no doubt Dunsmore will be successful in whatever he attempts, be it two sports or elite military training.
“He’s a kid that’s quiet. Goes out and does what he’s supposed to do, works hard, you don’t have to question it.”
In the meantime, Dunsmore will try to help two BFA teams through the playoffs. Both teams would need an upset win or two to lift a trophy but won’t be a massive underdog in any game they play. With Dunsmore on the field, a win is never out of the question.
One thing is clear, Dunsmore is ready to do whatever his teams need. Though most of his kickoffs sail through the end zone for touchbacks, the part-time football player may just need to put a stop to a kick return. Murray is quick to point out that Dunsmore has been through tackling training in preseasons.
Laroche, though a little concerned for his star, knows the odds are probably worse for anyone who challenges Dunsmore.
“I saw a clip of where he cleaned some guy’s clock,” Laroche said of some startling football game-tape. “That is a little worrisome but I’m not too worried. He’s in good shape, he keeps himself healthy. He’s not a small guy, so it’s not like he’s going to hurt himself.”