Injury didn't stop kicker
It is very comforting for a football coach to know that on his team is one of the top kickers in the WPIAL.
That's the comfort zone Monessen's Andy Pacak has with Roger Brandemarte.
Brandemarte, a 5-7, 142-pound senior, is in his third year as the team's place-kicker.
And in that time, Brandemarte has been so good that the kicking game has never been an issue in Pacak's eyes.
"I'm telling you very honestly that the last couple of years, I never gave the kicking game any thought because of Roger," Pacak said. "Whether it was kickoffs, extra points, it never popped into my mind.
"It's been a really big thing that I did not have to worry about. Actually, I'm not looking forward to replacing him after this year."
In his career, Brandemarte has kicked 71 extra points, including 27 of 28 this season.
In his last game, he missed an extra point from 35 yards out because of a penalty on the previous play. That miss snapped a streak of 22 consecutive conversions.
He also has made two field goals in his career, from 37 and 27 yards out. Ironically, both kicks came in the same game against California in his junior year.
When it comes to kickoffs, the diminutive soccer-style kicker routinely puts the ball inside the 10-yard line on the fly.
While he has been so dependable -- and mostly perfect -- Brandemarte's most amazing feat actually didn't take place on the field.
It was that he was able to kick this season at all.
Brandemarte had major surgery on his knee in February after he totally tore his PCL and partially tore his MCL.
It was an injury that first occurred in March, 2006, and continued to bother him for nearly a year.
Finally, in January, while playing basketball Brandemarte just didn't have his normal zip on the court because of the knee.
He got it checked and received the bad news.
"I really wasn't sure if I'd be able to play my senior year," he said.
Ironically, Brandemarte's surgery came on his 17th birthday, Feb. 7.
"At the time, our goal was for me to get back by mid- September so I could kick some of the season," Brandemarte said. "But the first thing the doctor said was I would be out for nine months, which was mid-October.
"I just started busting my butt as soon as I could on my rehab because I wanted to play, if it was possible."
Brandemarte put in long, painful hours of rehabilitation. He went three days a week for three hours a day.
"Once it got around to May, I thought I had a shot to play," he said. "I was doing things in my rehab that some kids could not do on a good knee.
"It wasn't easy. It was a lot of hard work ... real hard work."
The doctor released him to play football after just six months and he has not missed a workout since.
"Really, it is phenomenal that he is even playing," said Pacak with a tone of awe in his voice. "You think of how hard you have to plant one leg and then swing the other to kick that ball ... that's a lot of torque on both knees and he's been able to do it.
"Truthfully, I never expected to have him this season."
Now Brandemarte has hopes of kicking the ball four more years after his scholastic career ends.
"I'd love to kick in college," he said. "I know that Washington & Jefferson is interested. We'll see what happens if more schools contact me in the future."
One person who thinks Brandemarte can help some college program is Pacak.
"He has a strong leg, is accurate, and has a good work ethic," Pacak said. "He routinely is very accurate from 40 yards out in practice and I have no doubt he will improve on that range.
"I know one thing, if I could keep him four more years, I certainly would."