Kicking her way past knee rehab

West Ashley High School kicker Caroline Cashion is 28 for 29 on extra point attempts going into the Wildcats' televised game Thursday night (WMMP) at Goose Creek.

Caroline Cashion might be the toughest kicker on any high school football team in the state.

Not just because she’s a girl playing against Class AAAA competition. That novelty wore off two seasons ago when Cashion’s field goal beat John McKissick’s Summerville Green Wave, 10-7, in arguably West Ashley’s biggest win.

Or because the 5-6, 155-pound senior has committed to play soccer and major in biology at The Citadel, which currently has only one player from South Carolina. Cashion’s midfielder/defender versatility is well known around the state.

It’s more about her speedy transformation from distraught injured kid last March to reliable football player this season. Cashion is 28 for 29 on extra point attempts going into West Ashley’s televised game Thursday night (WMMP) at Goose Creek, the best team in the state.

“I grew up playing soccer with guys and have only played with girls the last six years,” Cashion said. “I’ve always been the tougher one on the team, always the most physical. So that’s definitely helped in football.”

And in rehab.

Cashion, 18, wrecked her left knee last March 6. The non-contact injury came late in a West Ashley soccer victory over Beaufort. A fully torn anterior cruciate ligament forced Cashion to miss the rest of West Ashley’s soccer season and the summer travel circuit.

“I lunged and cut and my leg just got caught,” Cashion. “It just snapped immediately. There was so much pain. I knew something was wrong but I just didn’t want to believe it.”

The comeback trail began with physical therapy in the spring. With school out, Cashion spent summer mornings at West Ashley, arriving at the weight room each week day by 7 a.m.

“Basic wall squats and running,” Cashion said. “Running was the big thing. A lot of running on the bleachers. Then I would go back to physical therapy.”

The effort continued in the heat of summer afternoons. Cashion went to South Carolina United Mount Pleasant soccer practice, juggling balls on the sideline.

Though Cashion is a right-footed kicker, there is more stress applied to her scarred left plant leg. But West Ashley head football coach Bobby Marion wasn’t surprised when Cashion made it back on the field for preseason drills.

“I knew if anyone would work hard, she would work hard to get back as quickly as possible,” Marion said. “We definitely need her. She’s been our mainstay in the kicking game around here for three years.”

Cashion fended off competition and solidified her status as the Wildcats’ place kicker and kickoff specialist.

“Caroline is very good at placing kickoffs anywhere we tell her to put them,” Marion said. “She pooches it around the 20 and that’s worked very well for us.”

Kickers aren’t supposed to make tackles, but Cashion made one as a sophomore in a junior varsity game.

“It was a slide tackle,” she said. “I just reverted back to what soccer taught me.”

Cashion has kicked one field goal this season, 22 yards against Wando. She went 7 for 7 on extra points as West Ashley (5-4) defeated Conway, 49-14, on Oct. 18.

Wildcat pride shines in Cashion’s smile. She attended Charleston School of Arts but played for West Ashley as a sophomore and junior (School of the Arts doesn’t have sports teams) but transferred to West Ashley last January.

“I really love West Ashley,” Cashion said. “It’s been great and there are so many more opportunities here, and it’s been a lot better for sports.”

Fellow students heard of Cashion long before they met her.

“Sometimes people will say, ‘Oh, you’re the girl that beat Summerville,’” Cashion said.

Thankfully, she doesn’t get razzed much by fans of other teams.

“No one can tell I’m a girl unless I pull my helmet off,” Cashion said, “and my calf muscles are pretty much as big as a guy’s.”

Next up, Goose Creek.

“It’s a great challenge,” Cashion said, “but I’m really excited for it.”

Goose Creek is a heavy favorite.

But West Ashley kicks in with the most unlikely winner on either side.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff