GRATERFORD >> No one was expecting it, not even Garrett Patla.
Who could blame him? The Perkiomen Valley senior kicker, rarely called upon a season ago, was asked to boot a 49-yard field goal in a 14-14 tie game against Downingtown East last week during the District 1 Class 6A quarterfinals. It was well beyond his career best.
Patla nailed it, his field goal acting as a catalyst to a Viking takeover in a 44-21 victory over the Cougars that secured the team’s second district semifinal in four seasons where they will host No. 10 Garnet Valley Friday night at 7 p.m. at Thomas J. Keenan Stadium.
“I wasn’t honestly expecting that,” Patla said of his kick. “Coach Heist went in and called field goal, which shows he trusts me. I was really excited because we haven’t done anything that long all year. I loved it. I don’t think the other team thought I’d make it because they didn’t rush anybody. That helped me out even more.”
It’s hard to consider Patla’s field goal anything out of the ordinary. He’s followed the same career trajectory as most high school kickers in the area: a soccer player turned football kicker. However, unlike many kickers, Patla forwent playing soccer after his freshman season to dedicate his craft to kicking field goals, extra points and booming kickoffs.
“I knew since freshman year what I wanted to do,” Patla said. “I enjoyed kicking. I was playing soccer all my life. When I saw the football team needed me, it made me want to play the sport more. It allowed me to focus on just kicking everyday.”
It’s worked well. His leg has been reliable throughout the years, even more so during his senior season. He spent a summer’s worth of work dedicated to kicking field goals with a blindfold to ensure his kicking motion was down to a perfect science.
“It has to feel good coming off your foot and it has to be something you can do with your eyes closed,” Patla said. “Over the summer with the blindfold on, it made me keep a focus on my steps and my motion.”
A three-year starter, he had two field goal attempts last season, of which he made one. His summer work yielded a season where he has nine field goals and two broken PAC records, one for longest field goal (49) and the other for most points (82). He registers his range around 60-yards and laughed when he said he could possibly tie the Pennsylvania state record of 64 “without any pads on.”
He may act modest with his kicking strength, but it’s not a tall task to see that Patla has become an integral part of a team that already boasts an exceptional offense and an exceptional defense; a plethora of riches, so to speak. Credit that to a rededication of the special teams on PAT attempts, cleaning up a field goal team that had 12 kicks blocked or failed last season — they had four entering Friday. Credit it to a senior Cornell commit (Army also has an offer on the table for him), who studied so much film last season that he realized his plant step kept coming down at different spots forcing each kick to be different. Most are the same now — touchbacks.
Friday, Patla will do as he always does: stand and wait. He never knows when his number will be called, but that’s just fine with him.
“I like to keep an empty mind,” Patla said. ‘I don’t go into situations trying to overthink what would happen if I would miss a field goal or mess up a kickoff. I empty my mind, keep calm and just do my job the best I can.”
* * *
Contrast of Styles
Overused. Sure. There’s no better way, however, to explain Perkiomen Valley and Garnet Valley’s offenses. The Jaguars enter Friday’s contest running the famed Triple-Option attack, an offense that relies heavily on quarterback reads and assignment blocking. No team runs a standard triple option in the PAC, yet Pottsgrove does use many principles from the offense in its run-heavy scheme.
“This team is very disciplined, they run their offense very well in my opinion and they execute it beautifully,” said Perk Valley head coach Rob Heist of Garnet Valley. “It’s the type of thing, if you’re not gap disciplined, if you’re not positive on your responsibilities, they will burn you. They run an offense that’s different than what a lot of people in this area see, so it’s hard to game plan for. It’s hard to see full speed live, in practice, against a scout team that’s learned it for a day or two. However, the scout team has been awesome. Our scout team watched film on their offense to try and mimic it and carry things out the way they do to the best they can. They’re doing a great job so far.”
How They Got Here
No. 10 Garnet Valley defeated No. 7 Central Bucks South 21-14 before eliminating No. 2 Neshaminy 42-14. Quarterback Nick Juliano and Danny Guy finished with two touchdowns in last week’s win over the Redskins.
No. 3 Perkiomen Valley defeated No. 14 Penn Wood 55-28 via a seven-interception performance by the defense. The Vikings then dispatched Downingtown East 44-21 via two 100-yard receiving days from Justin Jaworski and Sean Owens.
Longtime No See
Garnet Valley makes its first district semifinal appearance since 2011. Perkiomen Valley is back for the first time since 2013. Garnet Valley lost to eventual district runner-up Council Rock South 38-24. PV, the No. 15 seed, lost to No. 11 North Penn in 2013, 40-19. North Penn fell to Neshaminy in the district final.
Sturm Approaching History
Perkiomen Valley quarterback Stephen Sturm can eclipse the state record for quarterbacks in the state’s largest classification for most career touchdowns Friday night. Sturm sits second at 92 career touchdowns. Manheim Township’s Pat Bostick (2003-2006) holds the record of 94.
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