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Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
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Armwood kicker Hofrichter ready for his moment

SEFFNER — Sterling Hofrichter stands on the sideline at 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, and with his choirboy haircut he looks like a perfect candidate for the chess club, even though he’s wearing an Armwood High football uniform.

He says little. His eyes stare ahead. What is he thinking over there?

“I’m probably envisioning the ball sailing through the uprights,” Hofrichter said.

Other players pretty much leave him alone, let him do his thing. What do they think of him?

“Sterling?” Armwood quarterback Noah Johnson said. “He’s a beast! Anybody who can do what he does is a beast.”

What Sterling Hofrichter does is kick the stew out of footballs.

He has, in fact, kicked numerous 65-yard field goals in practice. In games this year, he has made nine of 14 field goal attempts with the longest from 47 yards and with near misses from 53, 56 and 57 yards. He also has made 70 of 71 extra-point attempts and leads Armwood in scoring with 97 points. On 87 kickoffs, he’s totaled 67 touchbacks, and, oh yes, he also punts, averaging around 40 yards with towering trajectory.

On Saturday, Hofrichter will bring his skills with Armwood (14-0) into the Class 6A state title game against Miami Central (13-1) at the Citrus Bowl, a place Hofrichter says does not intimidate him.

“I’d love to make that field goal to win the game,” Hofrichter said in his calm, quiet, matter-of-fact tone. “I want to see it go straight down the middle.”

“A beast?” Armwood linebacker Jordan Griffin said. “I would agree with that.”

Both Johnson and Griffin also agree Hofrichter — among all the Hawks’ talented offensive backs, defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs — is the most respected player on the team.

“We respect him because he comes to practice and goes to work,” Griffin said. “He has a job to do and he does it. Every day everyone can see that he is giving 100 percent.”

If nothing else, Hofrichter is humble, even though he’s ranked among the top junior kickers in the country after several national kicking camps, and is a top contender for a Division I scholarship, a rarity among kickers.

Part of the attraction is the fact he’s equally adept at punting and kicking, skills he’s honed since he was 4 years old. He credits parts of his development to practice flexibility around his home schooling, a little soccer and a lot of youth football. For a brief time he said he tried tight end until, at age 12, he broke his leg.

“That’s when I decided I’m just going to kick,” Hofrichter said.

For Griffin, the respect for Hofrichter began when he kicked against Hofrichter in Little League.

“Everyone knew him because he was the only player in Little League football that did nothing but kick,” Griffin said and laughed. “Oh man, he was so much better than me.”

As for Armwood coach Sean Callahan, he says he likes everything about Hofrichter, including their brief conversations, which often are limited to, “Great kick!”

More than anything, Hofrichter says the key is envisioning the ball sailing through the uprights — again and again and again. That’s why before games, he’ll sit in front of his locker playing a game on his Android called “Flick Field Goal,” which requires a sweep of the finger to kick the digital ball through uprights.

“That’s all I want to see,” Hofrichter said. “The ball going straight down the middle of those uprights.”

Johnson chuckled and said, “Whatever works for him is fine with me. All I know is that of all the high school kickers in the world I would choose Sterling as my kicker. That’s how lucky we all feel to have him on our team.”

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