When they called his name and handed him the Mayor’s Trophy — an annual award given to the player of the game in the storied West Deptford vs. Paulsboro matchup — Brandon Ratcliffe looked surprised.
Ratcliffe is West Deptford’s kicker. Anything short of a game-winning field goal tends to get overlooked in these types of situations.
But the senior was hard not to notice Saturday afternoon.
He easily cleared a 34-yard field goal in the first quarter. And every one of Ratcliffe’s kickoffs cleared the end zone. This was impossible not to notice because there were six of them in a game the Eagles won, 31-14.
Still, Ratcliffe was wide-eyed.
“I’m at a loss for words, honestly,” he said.
When you’re a kicker, getting attention is an art form, especially when it comes to recruiting.
But Ratcliffe has worked hard at getting noticed, and it’s been happening more often lately.
Jason Morrell, West Deptford’s head coach, "helps me out a lot with that, reaching out to coaches, and they sometimes come to the school. But I’ve also messaged coaches on Twitter and done a lot of work on my own,” said Ratcliffe, who has visited Temple, Fordham, and UMass, but said he hasn’t received an official offer.
“My kicking coach, Jim Copper, reaches out to coaches. I’m at Hammer Kicking Academy with Adam Tanalski. And that’s been big, too.”
Taking part in high-profile kicking academies and showcases are critical for kickers who want to be recruited.
It has helped the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Ratcliffe’s fast rise. He was an all-conference soccer player his freshman and sophomore seasons — he’s also a standout on the Eagles’ basketball team — before switching to football and immediately making his mark.
“I just thought it would be awesome to switch — I thought it was something I could really be good at,” said Ratcliffe, who had experience kicking on middle-school football teams. “I have a lot of friends on the team and it’s like a family out here. And it’s been a great move for me.”
Ratcliffe has traveled around the country taking part in showcases and, in June, was invited to participate in Hammer Kicking Academy’s prestigious Top-40 national showcase in Orlando. He placed in the top 10 in kicking and punting.
“He’s a high-pressure kicker, when the lights are brightest, he can handle it,” Morrell said. “And Brandon’s parents have done a great job committing to the process of getting him seen. For me, when coaches came out in the spring to watch us, I just told them, ‘Hey, keep him on your radar.’ ”
That’s been an easy ask for those who watch Ratcliffe practice.
He said he recently hit a 57-yard field goal in practice without a tee. His punts hover around 60 yards. And there’s those kickoffs.
“You just have to put in the work,” said Ratcliffe, whose Twitter feed is filled with videos of his doing just that. “I wasn’t as good at punting last year, but I think that after all of the work I put in over the summer, I really started doing better. And my plan is to just keep getting better.