From corner kick to kickoff
November 13, 2009
Utah’s leading PAT scorer in football is actually a soccer player. Sophomore Keenan Ward, who is number 2 in the country for PAT’s according to MaxPreps, never played football until this year. Because of the Miners potent offense, Keenan has not had to kick a field goal the entire season.
"When we heard his kicking scores were tops in the state of Utah, we were so surprised," his mom Lisa Ward said. "And then when we started tracking it, and saw that he was at the top in the U.S., we were just floored. Of course, his ranking is a direct result of the strength of the entire football team. If they weren’t scoring so many touchdowns, he wouldn’t be scoring so many kicking points."
Keenan joined the Park City High School varsity football team after his friend, Rufus Frost, called saying the football team was in desperate need of a kicker. Last year’s kicker, Ben Portwood who was also a soccer player, graduated and there was no one the team to fill the position.
"I played a lot of sports when I was young," Keenan said, "but never football. It’s been really fun this year."
Lisa said she was hesitant to allow Keenan to join the football team.
"Keenan never played football until two months ago," Lisa said. "He is a competitive soccer player, and has been playing soccer since he was four-years-old. When he asked me if he could play, I told him no, because he was already committed to his soccer team and coach."
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But Lisa said she changed her mind after speaking with both the soccer and football coaches, and was sure Keenan could continue to play soccer.
"All the football coaches and players have been really welcoming, and we’ve been impressed by the unity and loyalty among the players," she said. "He definitely owes his opportunity to make those scores to the team as a whole, and they, likewise, have been very supportive of him."
Assistant football coach Mike Dolan said he’s been very impressed with Keenan’s performance this year.
"He’s definitely improving," Dolan said. "He’ll get another 10 to 20 yards of distance as time goes on and he grows more."
Dolan and assistant coach Mikey Collins both agreed that Keenan has been a big part of getting the Miners to the semifinals of the state playoff games. The Miners played Hurricane on Friday.
"He’s been very effective for us," Collins said. "He’s gotten his role and done well with it. He’s a good student, and he’s always very polite and respectful."
Going into the playoffs took some adjustments for Keenan, however. The uprights at Rice-Eccles Stadium are two yards narrower than the uprights on Dozier Field.
"He (was) really, really nervous about this game," Lisa said. "He doesn’t want to let the team down. So, he’s been practicing tighter kicks, and spent an afternoon practicing at the City Park field, which has the college-width goal posts. He knows how hard his teammates have worked for many years to get to this place, and he just (wanted) to do his best for them."
Keenan said he plans to continue playing midfield on the PCHS soccer team but also hopes to come back to football next year.
"I think we’re all surprised to introduce a new sport into his life at this stage," Lisa said, "when we’ve been on the soccer field four days a week for almost 12 years with him."