LODI — Savannah Curtis always has loved football.
She was 4 years old when she first asked her father, Curt, to toss around the football in the yard, she was in elementary school when she left the girls at recess to play football with the boys and she was in fourth grade when she started playing in youth leagues.
The Lodi senior – a kicker who leads the state in made extra points — hasn’t stopped playing or watching football ever since.
Savannah Curtis – who said she is “go, go, go all the time” – makes certain her schoolwork is done by Saturday because Sunday is her designated day of rest to watch the NFL.
Green Bay Packers’ Brett Favre and Donald Driver used to be her favorite players when she watched games, but in more recent years she’s gravitated toward studying NFL kickers Mason Crosby and Adam Vinatieri and University of Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglianone.
In high school, the 5-foot-2 Savannah Curtis sized up the increasing size of the male players and decided to give up playing multiple positions in football.
She has concentrated on kicking the past four seasons, which made sense considering the leg strength of Curtis, a 2017 all-state honorable-mention selection and Capitol Conference player of the year as a soccer forward for Lodi. For the past two seasons, she’s been the primary varsity placekicker for the Blue Devils, coached by Dave Puls.
This season, she was named the Capitol North Conference first-team all-league kicker for top-ranked and top-seeded Lodi (12-0), which faces sixth-seeded Greendale Martin Luther (8-4) in a WIAA Division 4 state semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday at Waukesha North.
“I love the team aspect of it,” Curtis said about football. “Coach Puls always says, `I know I’m biased, but this is the greatest team sport in America,’ and I totally agree with that. The coaches are super cool. I like being the only girl out there. You’ve got a bunch of your guys and they are like my brothers. And I’m like their little sister.”
Twenty-seven seniors are part of the Lodi roster and Curtis said she has known many of them throughout her school years, including Alex Meyer since kindergarten and Sam Kerr and others since those youth football days. For her kicks, Dominic Scola has been the holder and Max Barreau the long snapper.
“We all are really close,” she said. “We all have that one goal in mind. We have hit all of our goals this season and we have one more to go. There are only two teams in the way.”
Capitol North champion Lodi is hoping to return to Camp Randall Stadium for the Division 4 state title game after falling to Osceola in the Division 4 championship game in 2015.
“We had high hopes they could put it all together and have some success, and they have done that,” Puls said, adding: “It’s a heck of an accomplishment to get this far. I’m ecstatic.”
Puls said Curtis is high energy and a sparkplug during basketball season, but quiet in the football setting. She puts on her pads and uniform in the privacy of a separate room on game night, but her teammates treat her like one of the group.
“They are a whole team of brothers out there,” Curt Curtis said. “They know her value.”
She has made nine field goals and 101 extra points in her prep career. She’s converted four of six field-goal attempts and is 64-for-67 on extra points this season, after making five of seven field goals and 36 of 37 extra points in 2016 and one of two extra points in 2015. She was credited with a 40-yard field goal – her longest in a game – that opened the scoring at Columbus last season and has made a 47-yarder in practice this season.
The soccer-style kicker competed in soccer, football, basketball, wrestling, softball and track as a youth until her parents requested she narrow that list to three – which became football, basketball and soccer, the three sports she still plays in high school.
Her mother, Julie Curtis, said she initially was apprehensive about Savannah playing youth tackle football.
“I don’t worry about it anymore,” Julie Curtis said. “If she went to make a tackle now she knows how to do it. She used to wrestle for a while. She’s done it all except volleyball and hockey. She knows what she can handle. … She has tackled people before. She’s little, but she’s powerful.”
On kickoffs, Savannah Curtis can drive the ball to the 5-yard line. Puls, however, doesn’t want her tackling returners on kickoffs.
“She’s tough,” Puls said. “She’ll go out there and she’ll tackle people. I’ve told her, `If you absolutely have to, go at the ankles.’ ’’
Curtis, who said she made tackles on kickoffs playing freshman and JV football but hasn’t attempted that the past two years, understands Puls has her best interests in mind.
“During tryouts this season, Coach Puls told me, `You are the most consistent kicker and you can kick it the furthest, but the only way I’m letting you do kickoffs is you have to run off to the side (of the field), because I don’t need you getting hurt,’’’ she said. “That’s been our deal this season. But getting this far into the playoffs, it will be hard to stop me from going after someone if they are going for a touchdown.”
Football kicking, which Curt Curtis said his daughter began in fifth grade, was natural because of her prowess in soccer, which Julie Curtis said Savannah began playing in first grade. Soccer is the sport she hopes to play in college.
“We knew she had the leg,” her father said. “She was demonstrating that in soccer (from a young age).”
Curt Curtis spent considerable time going to a nearby park and helping his daughter practice kicking footballs off a tee and attempting field goals and extra points. She also attended a few kicking camps during high school.
Last season, Savannah Curtis and then-senior Katie Feller of Madison La Follette were top female kickers in the area. This season, Curtis and another female kicker, Oak Creek’s Jenna Dankert, were on WisSports.net’s Watch List of the top state kickers.
“Everyone has been really supportive,” Savannah Curtis said. “Random people will come up to me and tell me that I’m an inspiration. `My daughter loves you. My daughter looks up to you.’ It’s just cool. It makes me feel like I’m doing something right. I hope to see more girls get involved, for sure. It’s a great experience. You really form a bond with the guys. … You can do anything as long you put your mind to it and work hard, especially girls.”
But the 18-year-old Curtis said her football career is nearing its finish – she just hopes there are two more games to play.
“She loves the sport,” Julie Curtis said. “It’s been really fun. I hate to see it end.”