For two season’s Silver Bluff’s Nicholas Casares watched, waited and learned. Tonight, the moment will come that those two seasons were prepping him for will come when the Bulldogs’ new kicker and his teammates will open the season on the road against Strom Thurmond.

He spent his time in recent years taking in knowledge from the area’s top kicker and punter Pedro Zambrano. Now, Zambrano has graduated, and the senior will get a chance to show off his skills as Silver Bluff’s kicker.

“When you’re on any team it comes down to having guys you can trust,” head coach Al Lown said. (Casares) is one of those guys.”

Lown pointed out that he has seen the work Casares put in pay off. He admitted replacing Zambrano is a big task for anyone to undertake, but he has confidence in the 6-foot-2 inch kicker.

“He’s ready, He and his brother have been putting in the work with Zambrano, so all of those good habit have probably rubbed off,” Lown said. “Plus, I’ve seen a big improvement in his punting.”

Casares said that his punting and place kicking are two areas that Zambrano, who he formed a good friendship with, helped him out with. He and Zambrano still keep in contact and have maintained their close friendship since the former Silver Bluff standout graduated.

Zambrano was the All-Aiken Standard first team punter and kicker in 2012. He connected on four field goals in his senior season, including a 40-yard field goal to cap the Bulldogs come from behind victory over Bamberg-Ehrhardt. Despite all of the accolades and accomplishments his predecessor piled up, Casares doesn’t feel any added pressure in taking over the position.

“I feel like I’ve prepared well in the offseason,” Casares said. “I’ve been working on my punting and place kicking, and I try to continue to get better on kickoffs.”

Casares said he enjoyed being a part of the team and was prepared to do his part to make it another successful season for Silver Bluff. Last year the team made it to the Class AA, Division II Lower State Championship game before being beaten by Bishop England. Casares hopes the team can get over the hurdle, and has set some lofty goals for himself to do his part to assure the Bulldogs are in the best position come playoff time.

“The biggest thing is I don’t want to have any kicks blocked,” he said of his aspirations for the season. “The coaches have done a good job working with me so I feel confident. My other goal is to make all my kicks. I just want to make sure I’m doing my part.”

Eric Russell covers sports for the Aiken Standard. He graduated from USC Aiken in 2012 with a degree in communications.