By Nicholas Loffredo, Wyckoff Patch, 12/17/09
After years of team practice and individual training, all of Ramapo High School senior Ross Krautman's athletic dreams are being realized.
Krautman, a four-year starter on the football team, has had an almost surreal few weeks. The kicker recently finished his last high school season celebrating a state title with his teammates on the turf at Giants Stadium. Now, the postseason honors are pouring in for an All-American who will play for his dream school, Syracuse University, starting next fall.
Krautman's family and Ramapo coach Drew Gibbs were in attendance last week at the Empire Theater in Manhattan to watch him win a 2009 BIGTIME High School Football Award as the region's best kicker. Krautman, who's been named an All-American by several recruiting services, also recently joined running back Jesse Devonshuk as first-team All-County selections by the Bergen Record.
"I've worked so hard throughout my career on and off the field, so all those awards and accomplishments definitely paid off. It feels great to be awarded different things, but none of it gets to my head. It just makes me want to work harder and become a better kicker," Krautman said.
It's hard to see how he could get better, considering he was nearly perfect in four years of high school ball. Krautman set a state record for consecutive extra points in a game against Northern Highlands this season in which he converted his 60th, 61st and 62nd PAT to break a record set by his brother, Rick, in 2002. He continued the streak through the state title win over Wayne Hills, converting 81 in a row and 123 for his career to finish with the highest percentage of successful PATs in state history. In fact, Krautman only missed one PAT in four years, and that one came on a block during his sophomore year.
"I give credit to my kicking coach Pat Sempier, who I've worked with since I was in the fifth grade. He was the one who taught me how to kick. I give credit to all my coaches because they had a lot of trust in me throughout my career with kicks," said Krautman, whose brother also helped give him tips over the years.
Krautman competed against four other finalists at his position to win the BIGTIME award, which was decided in part by Chuck Mound, a speed trainer, (www.chuckmound.com) and Chris Melvin, a recruiting analyst for eliterecruits.com. While Melvin watched hours of game tape to winnow down lists of 30 players by position, online voting at the two sites helped select the winners. Krautman joined other standouts and future college athletes such as running back Tony Jones of Don Bosco, wide receiver Kai Dominguez of St. Joseph's Regional and defensive end Trevor Clemmings of Paterson Catholic in the winner's circle.
"He has one of the best legs I've seen in a while," Melvin said. "He's accurate, precise. I think he's going to be a brilliant kicker at the next level."
While Krautman appreciates the recognition, it can't come close to the feeling of earning achampionship in the snow on the same field used by the Giants and Jets.
"It was the best feeling I have ever felt in my life. I had chills running onto that field. My dream ever since I was a freshman was to one day play on that field in the state championship game," Krautman said.
Ramapo survived a first quarter injury to Devonshuk, their most potent offensive weapon, and still went on to defeat their archrivals, 16-8, behind a punishing defense and an offensive unit that stepped up upon losing its star.
"It was beyond description," said Jeff Krautman, Ross' father. "The memory is still vividly on my mind."
The Raiders could have been shut out of Giants Stadium and the entire playoffs if not for a late-season run of victories. Ramapo had fallen to 3-2 in October after a loss at Ramsey and would later need to beat Pascack Valley to keep its postseason hopes alive.
Krautman said the Ramsey loss "woke up" the team.
"Ramsey was a good team, but we came into the game with no intensity or motivation to win at all. We were looking ahead of Ramsey before we played them. After we lost that game, we became a whole different team, and that's when the senior leadership came in. Everyone stepped up in practice, and we practiced with such great intensity. We knew that if we lost one more, we wouldn't make the playoffs, and that's when we felt we would win every game. We learned not to look ahead of a team and took each game by game."
As if there wasn't enough pressure already, Krautman faced the prospect of having to kick in a snow storm against Wayne Hills.
"With the snow and swirling winds, it obviously made the kicking game even more of a challenge. I didn't think about the conditions or the big stadium at all though. I thought of it as kicking at any other place," he said.
That approach may help him next year, when he takes his kicking game to Syracuse University, home to the almost 50,000-seat Carrier Dome. Krautman can't wait.
"Nothing is better than kicking in a dome," he said. The senior also calls Syracuse his "dream school" with a "great tradition and great academics."
He may not have to report for months, but the preparation has already begun. Krautman said he aims to train harder in the weight room the rest of the year while practicing his kicking game at Superdome Sports in Waldwick.
- 18 field goals; career long, 44 yards, to tie a school record
- 56 touchbacks
- 123 of 124 PATs (state record)
- 81 consecutive PATs (state record)