BILLINGS — If you’ve been to a Laurel Locomotives football game this year, you’ve probably seen their new secret weapon.
Junior kicker Owen Adams set the school record for longest field goal in just his fourth game on the team. But he hasn’t just made an impact on the field— he’s been an asset for the entire Laurel community.
"I’ve really loved it here so far," Adams said.
When a teenager gets told they’re moving to a completely different state, it generally doesn’t go over well. But Adams knew he was going to adapt through sports.
"The team that I’ve gotten to hang around with and have a season with has been amazing," he added.
The only question was, which team would it be? Adams had made a name for himself both as a standout soccer player and football kicker in Juneau, Alaska, before his family moved to Laurel in the summer. But those sports are in the same high school season in Montana.
"I knew I had to make a decision," Adams said. "I truly want to play Division 1 college football, and I knew I have to play high school to make that happen."
"When he made his decision, I was excited about it," said Laurel head coach Mike Ludwig.
Adams had sent Ludwig clips of his kicking prowess before arriving at tryouts, but you can only tell so much from clips.
"You never know," Ludwig said. "You get your hopes up a little bit, and it doesn't work out. And we've had kids where you get your hopes up, and it does work out."
This one has worked out. In a Sept. 16 home game against Lewistown, Adams broke Laurel’s school record for longest field made with a 47-yard kick.
"(The record) was 44 yards, but it was in the 1960s. That’s how long it’s been," Ludwig said. "That was exciting."
And Adams says he can go farther.
"Sixty-five," he said when asked his maximum field goal distance. "I've hit it one time, and it was incredible."
But his biggest moment of the season happened on Oct. 14. Adams and his family set up Owen’s Lemonade Stand, with the goal to raise money to fight childhood cancer. It was a partnership with a national nonprofit foundation called Alex’s Lemonade Stand, which Adams learned about at a kicking camp. His version was a huge success.
"It was spectacular," he beamed. "On the spot, we raised $1,500, and then my dad’s work wanted to have a corporate double, and it doubled up to $3,000."
"Anytime our players want to do something for the community, it’s a huge deal," Ludwig said. "And it’s a compliment not only to Owen but to his family.
"They're good people. I knew when they were moving in here, we were getting a good student at Laurel High School, and that's what we want."
Who just also happens to be a new secret weapon.