Through the high school football regular season, Berlin Brothersvalley junior Connor Montgomery and Windber senior Bryson Costa were the top two scoring kickers in the area with 59 and 53 total points, respectively.
While that’s an impressive stat, Montgomery and Costa are both talented soccer goalies as well. Having a soccer player as a kicker is nothing new. However, Montgomery and Costa are thriving in a sport that is not even their first love.
Montgomery a natural on gridiron
Montgomery is not just the goalie on the Berlin soccer team. He splits time playing offense as well. Montgomery also runs cross country in the fall. He qualified for states this season.
It was an easy decision for Montgomery to join the Berlin football program as a freshman.
“For me, it was just helping out my school in sports in any way possible,” said Montgomery of why he joined the football team. “I like to be involved in sports and that was just another way to showcase myself and give me something to work for.”
Montgomery took over for Brady Glessner his freshman season. He had big shoes to fill, but since taking over, Montgomery has progressed every year.
“My freshman year was a bit interesting,” Montgomery said. “They were very welcoming, but I knew I had to prove myself and prove what I can do because they had such a great kicker in Brady Glessner.”
He went 26-of-32 in PATs and 2-of-3 in field goal attempts. A year later, Montgomery racked up 59 total points during an 11-1 campaign.
“My sophomore year, we lost a lot of players going into that season,” Montgomery said. “Pace Prosser started holding for me and we had a really great group on special teams. They shoot down the field and get tackles. They make me look good. We clicked as a special teams unit.”
Finding a balance between the three sports is something Montgomery has been able to do seamlessly.
“Soccer is my primary sport,” he said. “Whatever extra time I have is spent on the football field. I go on runs after practice to stay in shape for cross country. It’s never been too much. It has been a great way to try new things. A lot of my adjustments come during the summer to get in shape and conditioned.
“Listening to my body and learning how to properly recover so I can participate in all these sports, and the mental health aspect have been important for me.”
With the exception of a 3-year stretch, Berlin football coach Doug Paul has utilized the services of soccer players since 2003. Paul, who is also a physical education teacher and athletic director, had the opportunity to see Montgomery play junior high soccer. But it was during gym class when Paul knew he found his next kicker.
“One day when he was in eighth grade, we took a football outside during gym class and I could just tell he was a natural,” Paul said. “He bought in right away to playing. Connor is a great young man and an exceptional student, first and foremost, though. He is such an important part of the game. He makes it hard for high school teams to sustain an 80-yard drive without a big play in it. He can pop one high in the air and pin teams even deeper than the 20 with our special teams. He plays into our whole defensive philosophy, and he’s almost automatic in extra points and field goals.”
Montgomery is enjoying being a part of a Berlin football program steeped in tradition.
“It’s the atmosphere,” Montgomery said. “When you’re in a game, there’s nothing like it, compared to the other sports I play.”
Costa’s change of heart leads to successful football career
Windber coach Matt Grohal played high school football with Costa’s father.
When the Costas moved back to the area, Grohal tried to recruit Bryson Costa to the football team. Costa declined and stuck with soccer his sophomore year.
A season later, Costa came out for the team and made an instant impact.
“I wasn’t interested in it my sophomore year,” Costa said. “Coach Grohal was a big part in me coming out to play. He allowed me to pursue it during the offseason my sophomore year and I’m glad I did.”
Costa tallied 63 total points as a junior, helping Windber capture a District 5 Class 1A championship.
Since he was 6 years old, Costa has played soccer. Kicking a soccer ball and punting a football both come easy for Costa. He has a booming leg. Costa had 44 touchbacks through Week 10 and has drilled a 42-yard field goal this season.
Staying as healthy as possible is something Costa tries to achieve, but it is not easy.
“It is crazy how we play two or three soccer games a week then I attend a football practice to get ready for Friday nights,” Costa, who helped the Windber soccer team earn a playoff berth this season, said. “It hard on the body, kicking and punting every day. It is a grind and honestly, I am always sore.”
Costa was invited to the Kohl’s National Kicking Camp in Tennessee this past summer. He has also attended the Penn State camp to fine-tune his skillset.
“The offseason is where I really get to work on my craft, since I am only with the team once a week when soccer is going on,” Costa said of his football preparation. “I try to work on the basics. It’s a hard transition, though, especially when you’re kicking soccer balls all week.”
Costa has been an integral part of the football team since joining.
“His presence has helped our defense so much,” Grohal said. “His ability to kick field goals and extra points is just next level as well. We’ve just been so blessed to have him as a part of our program. He really took it to the next level this year.”
Costa has enjoyed making memories in the two short years as a member of the Windber football team.
“I’ve always felt very accepted by my teammates and coaches, even as a part-time player,” Costa said. “I respect the coaches a lot for giving me this opportunity to be around my friends, enjoy another sport and just have some fun.”
While Montgomery nor Costa hold a collegiate offer as of yet, they will both have plenty of options to pursue athletics at the next level in whatever sport they choose because of their dedication and commitment to bettering themselves.
Adam Ripple is the Daily American sports editor. He can be reached at 814-444-5926. Follow him on X @ARipple_DAsport. Follow Daily American Sports on Facebook and @dailyamericanmedia on Instagram.