BRUNSWICK — At 17 years old, Jackson Acker’s back aches, his shoulder is sore and he grunts when performing his primary job for Brunswick High’s boys soccer team.
It’s the price he pays for being the chief throw-in specialist for the Railroaders, a job that can make him feel a lot older than he actually is, but one that makes his team much more of a scoring threat.
“I mean, anytime we get a throw-in in [the opposing half] half of the field, it’s dangerous,” Brunswick coach Shawn Baker said. “It’s a goal-scoring threat.”
In fact, the Railroaders have scored four goals this season directly off Acker throw-ins, including one Monday night during a 3-1 win over visiting Linganore when junior midfielder Rickey Cicmanec headed it inside the far post.
“Honestly, everyone asks me how I do it,” Acker said of his powerful throw-ins. “I drag my foot, I bend my back, I make a sound, and it goes far.”
Acker’s throws have so much momentum that opposing teams often accuse him of illegally picking up his foot while making them. But he insists that he doesn’t. He merely plants with his lead foot and drags the trailing foot and is rarely called for any sort of infraction.
“It’s all second-nature to me at this point,” he said.
And about that grunt: “I am basically taking a breath of air as I throw it,” he said. “People said it’s like a scream. It sounds barbaric. Honestly, I just throw it and hope someone gets a head on it.”
This has become such a weapon for the Railroaders (10-2-1) that they often devote large chunks of practice to it. Acker will make upwards of 50 throw-ins during certain practices.
“We throw it until his arm gets sore,” Baker said.
The wear and tear has been an issue. Acker has nursed lower-back injuries over the course of his soccer career, which began when he was 4 years old. He also damaged his rotator cuff that forced him into a shoulder brace for a couple of games.
“If it’s for the team and we win, I am happy to keep doing it,” he said. “It’s my senior year, and I want to make something special out of it. So, I suck it up and throw the ball. I put my all into the sport.”
Brunswick generated a lot of scoring chances against Linganore. But Acker’s throw-in to Cicmancec was one of the few they were able to cash in.
The Railroaders scored their first goal almost seven minutes into the second half when junior forward Logan Malone converted a penalty kick after a teammate was pushed down from behind in the box.
Cicmanec scored his goal with 17 minutes, 36 seconds to play, and then junior midfielder Will Burton cashed in with 10:48 remaining off a beautiful feed near the far sideline from freshman forward Graham Putnam.
Brunswick had a tall task getting anything past Linganore’s standout goalkeeper Ethan Brohawn, who kept the Lancers in the game with his remarkable play, as he so often does.
“He gives them a lot of confidence being back there,” Lancers coach Kirk Meehan said of Brohawn’s influence on the rest of his players. “He’s very communicative on the field. He talks them through things, and just commands everything back there.”
The Lancers (0-9-2) did get on the board with 3:28 to play when junior Kyle Walker turned a rare open look and shot for the Lancers into a goal.
“Most of our offense goes through Kyle I would say, and he does a great job of finishing when he gets the opportunity,” Meehan said. “That was just our second shot on goal, and we were able to take advantage and put it away.”