WILLIAMSTOWN -Whether or not Lloyd's of London offers insurance policies on a human's leg, Williamstown senior Garret Butler might consider protecting his investment because the value of his kicking ability was like gold for Yellowjacket athletics this past fall.
As a dual-sport athlete, Butler was recognized as a first team all-stater both as a placekicker on the football team and as a keeper on the soccer team - an accomplishment that doesn't happen every day.
"Garret is one of those players you can't replace easily - his leadership and skill is something you can't replace easily," WHS soccer coach Mike Albertson said. "He really dedicated himself to soccer and to football as well, and it showed."
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Williamstown keeper Garret Butler, middle, makes an attempt on a ball sent his direction during a match played against St. Marys earlier this year. Butler was named first team all-state both as a keeper for the Yellowjacket soccer team and as a kicker for the school’s football team.
On the soccer pitch, Butler was a member of a Yellowjacket squad that captured its first sectional title since 2008 after winning at Ravenswood, 2-0. WHS's season of 15-2-3 ended the following week in a 4-0 defeat to eventual Class AA/A state champion Charleston Catholic.
For all intents and purposes, the Irish were essentially the only opponent to solve the Yellowjacket defense. Part of that was due to Butler, who allowed just 11 goals in 19 matches leading up to the regional contest played against the Irish at Ripley High School.
"The team had so much confidence with Garret back there," Albertson said. "They knew we could give up scoring chances, but Garret would come up with a save. When you have someone like that, it elevated the whole team.
"We were a very strong team on defense, and with him as the anchor he made game-saving saves that I can't even count how many."
This is only half the story on Butler's impact at Williamstown. On Friday nights, he laced up his football cleats for coach Terry Smith, who rarely concerned himself about his team not scoring points once the offense approached - then entered - the red zone.
The player wearing uniform No. 9 converted 32 of 33 extra point attempts and 6 of 9 field-goal opportunities for a team that advanced to the postseason and finished with a 6-5 record.
"He was money in the bank - we could rely on him to get us three points the past two years," Smith said.
Butler had always been involved with soccer from the time he learned to walk. As far as wearing shoulder pads and knee pads, there was a brief adjustment period with the shape of the ball once he decided to join the football team during his sophomore year.
"I played on travel teams for soccer since I was in third or fourth grade, but football was more of a new thing," said Butler, who is the son of Suzannah and Buddy Butler. "My sophomore year, they needed a kicker and I thought, 'Why not.' It was pretty much like soccer with a different shaped ball."
None of that mattered this year, especially on the evening of Sept. 21 when Butler left several yards to spare on a 50-yard field goal he kicked during a 23-7 victory at Ravenswood. Moments earlier, a 45-yard field goal was nullified when WHS was flagged for illegal procedure.
As it turned out, the 5-yard penalty gave Butler a chance at breaking the school record of 47 yards owned by Brad Kiger.
"On the 45-yarder, I barely cleared the crossbar," Butler said. "When I saw the penalty flag, I said, 'Please, let it be on the other team.' I looked at coach Smith and he said for me to go out and do it again."
As Butler explained, everything was perfect as it was throughout the season - the snap by Nick Meadows and the hold by Jake Tracewell.
"They put me on a pedestal all year and made it easy for me," Butler said.
Soccer teammates like defender Evan Fowler provided a similar presence.
"Our defenders were lock-tight," Butler added. "Evan kind of controlled the defense and told everyone where to go. He took angles away from the attackers and made it pretty easy for me."
Butler spends the winter season honing his kicking skills - both as a placekicker and as a punter - in hopes of playing at the next level. He hasn't decided on a specific college and is keeping open his options.
"His potential barely has been tapped as far as punting," coach Smith said. "He pretty much taught himself to punt and made himself good."
One of the more memorable highlights Smith reflects on dates back to Butler's junior year in a regular season football game played at Wirt County when Butler punted left-footed.
The previous night, Butler dislocated his right ankle during a soccer match. Only the football trainer was aware of the injury before gametime at Wirt County.
"I had talked with (the trainer) and told him not to tell coach Smith," Butler said.
Coach Smith eventually found out, and was impressed with the results.
With Butler in charge on kickoffs, opponents usually faced a long field. Of the 17 that resulted in touchbacks this year, five were recorded in a win against South Harrison.
As for his soccer career, Butler has decided to close that chapter of his life even though coach Albertson figures he could have been successful at the next level.
And that includes being a keeper or any other position for that matter. With four goals scored, Butler ranked third on the team. He also contributed three assists.
"The amazing thing - during his senior year there were two matches where we pulled him from goal and put him on the field to try and get some offense going," coach Albertson said. "In one game he set up the game-tying goal with an assist, and in the second one he had the game-winning goal."