December 7, 2009

Exchange student kicks HS to first state title

MORE: Big shakeup in RivalsHigh 100 rankings: Dec. 7 update

This weekend's state playoff games produced hundreds of heroes across the country - most of which have dreamed of their game-winning moments for years.

That's not the case in Union City (Tenn.) High.

The school is still basking in the glow of its first state title - a victory in the Tennessee Class 1A title game last Friday night - thanks to the efforts of a player who had never seen a football game until just a few months ago.

Jorge Guerri - and exchange student from Spain - kicked a 22-yard field goal with two seconds left to lift Union City past South Pittsburg, 31-29, in Cookeville, Tenn.

South Pittsburg took a timeout to rattle the senior. It didn't work. His coach, Darren Bowling, had so much confidence; he left Guerri on the field during the break.

"I wasn't worried about Jorge" Union City Head Coach Darren Bowling told "After South Pittsburg took a timeout to try to ice, Jorge I left him out there. I brought the lineman to me and told thing one thing. Block for him."

His host parents were just as confident.

"(Jorge) has played in so many soccer tournaments," John Clendenin told The Jackson Sun. "So, the pressure didn't bother him."

It's a good thing neither checked with Guerri.

"I was so scared," he told TnVarsity of the RivalsHigh network. "I felt the pressure."

Guerri's story begins with John and Pam Clendenin, who have been hosting exchange students for years.

The couple looks for athletes, as they feel it helps them make the transition. "We've had so many get homesick, (athletics) keeps them busy," John said.

This summer, they realized Guerri had the talent for kicking when he was easily making 40-yard efforts. With a little coaching he was ready.

Guerri responded all season, making 68-of-72 extra points and 5-of-7 field goals.

Guerri has been so good; in fact, he apparently doesn't need much warm-up now. As Union Hill was driving to get into position for the winning kick, Guerri could only watch. The team couldn't find the practice kicking net on the sideline.

No problem.

"When I kicked the ball and it went through I was so happy," he said.

Guerri is now living an American dream: High school football hero.

"It's hard to believe we won the game, and we're state champions," he told The Tennessean.

Pam Clendenin is making sure everyone finds out. She's planning on sending a tape of the big kick back to Spain to his home family.

When she does, she might want to do a little recruiting, too.

It seems the Clendenins are as popular as Guerri is right now.

"The basketball coaches say they want point guards," John said.

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