Consistent kicker Paul Butuza shines for Sevier County
Kicker Paul Butuza has been so automatic for Sevier County, defensive end Seth Arwood just stands on the 20-yard line before kickoffs.
“Me and Bailey Fields are like, ‘Well we might as well just trot down here on the 20,’ ” Arwood said. “We know he’s not going to take it to the house because Paul’s pretty faithful to kick it (into the end zone) almost every time.”
The transfer from Romania, by way of Sullivan South, has been a huge weapon for the Smoky Bears (7-1) in his first year playing football. Nearly every one of the junior’s kickoffs reach the end zone and the soccer player is pretty good on extra points, missing just four all year. Butuza is so good, Sevier County coach Steve Brewer has to remind his special teams to cover the kickoff, just in case a kick doesn’t make the end zone.
The life-long soccer player said he’s enjoying the new-found success in American football.
“I love (football),” Butuza said. “It’s amazing. There’s so many people that come to the games. (It’s) so much fun to play.”
Butuza came to the United States a couple years ago, attending Sullivan South last year before moving to Sevier County. He wanted to play football last year, but he tore his ACL. A few kicks during fall camp proved to his new teammates how valuable he would be.
“I think it was two-a-days, everybody went down on the field to watch him kick,” Arwood said. “It was crazy. I think he made like a 53-yarder his second or third week here. … I was definitely amazed. I knew he probably wasn’t going to miss a lot this year.”
Butuza said he really had to work to get kicking a football down. It took time to get the steps and timing right on each kind of kick. He’s worked on his kickoffs and it’s paid dividends. Now his focus is on field goals.
“You have to be calm when you kick it,” Butuza said. “You don’t have to try to kick it hard because that’s when you mess it up. It’s not hard. If you approach everything right, you can do it.”
The kicker’s biggest value is on those kickoffs. Two weeks ago against Seymour, Dorian Banks proved how important a touchback can be when one of the Eagles’ kicks didn’t quite reach the end zone and Banks returned it for a touchdown. That doesn’t happen when Butuza is reaching the paint with regularity.
More importantly, he helps Sevier County win field-position battles. Brewer said when a team can start a drive at the 30, even a three-and-out can pin you deep after a punt.
“It’s a great momentum setter for our defense to not have to guard an offense who gets to start at maybe the 30, 35, 40-yard line,” said quarterback Luke Manning.
“He kicks it into the end zone, they get it at the 20 every time, that makes it a whole lot easier on our defense.”
The kicker’s arrival made life easier for Brewer, too. The coach wondered how he would replace Jared Baxter, who kicked for four years in Sevierville. Butuza was the answer.
“I heard that he was transferring in here,” Brewer said. “We were obviously anxious and excited about watching him. Of course he’s kicking and doing a great job. We’re like, ‘Hey, this is some gift.’ ”