Mark Painter stood on the sidelines of the Hershey High School football field watching his Hershey Football Midgets line up for what would be a game-winning field goal.
He sent out Louis “Joey” Corado, an eighth-grader on the team, in the pouring rain to send his team home happy against Hummelstown. Corado, who had played soccer up until seventh grade, had more than enough on his leg to put the ball through the uprights.
So it was a bit of deja vu on Friday when Painter, now the head coach of the Hershey Trojans, sent Corado out on the same field for a would-be 22-yard field goal that would give his team the lead against Red Land at home with 14 seconds left in the game.
Again, Corado delivered the goods.
“I’ve seen that before from him, so I had the faith,” Painter said. “We’re running plays to score, but not do anything that would be risky in any means and then we got a penalty that set us back a little bit. At that point, I was like, alright, just got to put the ball in the middle of the field here and try to use as much time as possible, and put him out there and give him an opportunity to do what he’s capable of doing.
“It wasn’t even a second thought in my mind.”
It capped off what had already been about as idyllic a night as Corado could have wanted. The senior captain was making his first game back from having surgery to repair a torn labrum during the offseason that forced him to miss the basketball season and required several months of rehab. It also marked his first game where he was more than just a kicker as he lined up to play wide receiver.
And if fans thought he looked like a natural kicking the football, they would’ve had the same thought of his talents at wide receiver as he hauled in a pivotal jump ball on a 33-yard pass from quarterback Jackson Bouslough to set up the eventual game-tying touchdown.
“Nothing better than bringing down a jump ball like that and just hear the crowd cheer and knowing you just put your team in a great position to score,” Corado said.
Everything that Corado does he goes hard at. Hershey athletic director Scott Govern has seen that firsthand over the past couple years as Corado has interned for him in the department. Govern said he’s always asking questions like, “What can I do next? What can I do to get better? What can I do here?”
That continuous push to improve and get better is why when Corado felt some tightness in his hip during offseason workouts in March 2019, he just kept working through it. After some time, it continued to bother him and he went to Drayer Physical Therapy in Hershey to have it looked at, and they all thought it was a hip flexor injury and that there was little to do about it besides ice, Advil and stretching.
Corado went to the National Top 40 Event, an invite-only showcase in Orlando — which brings in 40 of the top kickers, punters and snappers in the country — hosted by his kicking coach Adam Tanalski, who runs Hammer Kicking Academy. He continued to fight through the pain until the end of the summer and the beginning of the season, it got to the point of being unbearable.
He had it looked at again, this time at the PennState Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, where he was told he had an impingement in his hip. He received a cortisone shot that he said helped for about a week and sat out the first four weeks of the season. It wasn’t long until a trip to the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York found that he had a torn labrum.
Corado decided to push through the season “because it’s already torn, you can’t do much about it, try to just play my hardest for my teammates with whatever I could do.”
He played his final game against Lower Dauphin on Oct. 18 and sat out senior night on Oct. 25 against Twin Valley. He underwent surgery from Dr. Aman Dhawan at PennState Health on Oct. 28 to get it fixed.
Still, the decision to have the surgery wasn’t easy. Corado knew the road to recovery would be hard and it could be long. But his goal is to play football at the college level, and to do that, he knew he would need to be fully healthy for his senior season.
“I was just glad that I that I was able to get it fixed and that I knew that what I did will help me in the future and will help me reach my goals,” Corado said. “That was one of my biggest mindsets. I chose to do this and at the end, it might suck throughout the whole process, but the end goal of the surgery will help me get to where I want.”
The turnaround from resting to physical therapy was almost instantaneous. At Drayer, they put him on a bike shortly after the surgery and for the next two months, he was working hard at it. By mid-December, he was back to walking fine and started to push himself a bit more.
In February, he was doing squats and trying different balancing techniques to again start ramping up into football shape. He had a minor flair up from shooting baskets with the team that required him to take a step back, but it wasn’t long before he was back to working out at his own pace.
“At the end of my time [with Drayer], my right leg was actually stronger than it was before,” Corado said.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, his older brother Michael, who was staying at the family’s home during the pandemic, helped him set up a field-goal post between two trees since the fields weren’t open so he could get back to kicking again. Since recruiting was moving a bit slower, he could take his time a bit more with his recovery and worked on kicking nerf balls and swinging his legs to progress back into football shape.
By the time the summer hit, he was looking like a powerful kicker once again. Tanalski said he saw him in May and June and that he was back to making 58- and 59-yard field goals.
“Had a little bit of a setback in June where he was feeling a little bit of discomfort and it was just that he had to work through it because of the scar tissue, and from what we look like now,” Tanalski said, “It looks like he’s kicking the ball very well and I think he’s back to where he used to be and should be able to compete against almost everyone in the country.”
During all that time, he also continued to grow as a leader. He designed spreadsheets to help teammates with at-home exercises and made a competition out of it to help push the players. Over Zoom chats, the Trojan players discussed different plans for staying in football shape and preparing for the season.
Corado also decided that in addition to wanting to kick the ball, he wanted to help his team in a new way: playing wide receiver. The former soccer player had never played any position besides kicker before, but after his parents and coaches agreed to the new position, he began to practice with Bouslough, running routes and learning the playbook.
“His leadership this year is what’s really jumped. It’s caught my attention this year,” Govern said. “He always was a strong leader, but this year, he’s playing wide receiver as well as being the kicker and then moving to do more things that elevate his status with his peers.”
Of course, balancing the new position with a sense of precaution as he’s fresh off surgery was important. And Painter said it wasn’t easy. Corado always wants to be kicking and showing off his talents, but they had to pace him into it so he wouldn’t risk reinjuring himself.
But because he already had to limit how much time he spent kicking, Corado had the extra time available during practice to refine his work over the summer at wide receiver.
Painter said he had played Corado as a wide receiver with the Hershey Football Midgets, but that this was now much more in-depth.
“It was just learning the position a little more and he’s a pretty bright kid and he’s an athlete and a competitor,” Painter said. “He’s not a polished wide receiver by any means, but he’s definitely a very, very good high school wide receiver at this point.”
By the end of the summer, Corado had shown himself to be ready to take on a starting role. And on Friday, hauling in that catch for Hershey, he showed fans and opponents that he’s earned every bit of that starting role.
The rest of the season, Corado hopes, will feature much of the same. He’s been ranked highly in the past by Kohl’s Kicking before his injury and knows that he’s got what it takes to continue playing the position at the next level.
Tanalski, who has produced more than 550 college athletes, said that Corado is one of the best kickers in the country and that he should be among the most recruited in his class.
“Joey, when healthy is a top-15 kicker in his class. A full scholarship, Division I kicker, when he’s healthy,” Tanalski said. “He makes kicks, puts the ball down the middle, the ball does not move off of his foot. There’s no draw or fades to his ball. He is a definitely Division I scholarship-level kicker when he’s healthy.”