Central Bucks East head football coach John Donnelly recalls watching Pat Keller in middle school and forming a positive image of his quarterback.
“I remember seeing Pat in seventh grade for Lenape Valley,” noted Donnelly.” What was clear then was that he had an innate ability at the quarterback position. There wasn’t much mechanically that we had to change with Pat.
“But one thing that always has remained true with Pat is his willingness to work on the craft to become the best version of himself.”
Now, five years later, Keller is ready to lead the Patriots back to the postseason after a 6-5 mark last season and a return to the district playoffs after a year’s absence.
Keller, who was a second-team, all-league choice, threw for 1,256 yards with 14 touchdowns and only one interception. He also rushed for 171 yards and three touchdowns.
Donnelly has a deeper perception of Keller’s numbers.
“He is one of the most underrated players in Pennsylvania,” beamed Donnelly. “He had an outstanding year last season, and he was highly efficient. His statistics were outstanding, and the most critical one was that he threw only one interception. That was a dropped ball that turned into a deflection.
“There are many other players in the area that have slightly higher yardage, but they have many more attempts than Pat. His TD ratio is very high.”
Keller credits his connection with his receivers for his completion rate.
“It is about getting down the timing with the receivers,” he said. “They make the defense work.
“The receivers are where they are expected to be, and I have to put the ball where the defense can’t get it.”
Yet, Keller, who will begin his third season at the helm, always is looking to elevate his play.
“There’s always room to improve,” he stated. ‘I have been working on my mechanics, and my footwork. I also have been working on my timing and accuracy.
“Overall, I don’t want to take anything for granted.”
Donnelly doesn’t see any quit in his 6-foot-4, 195-pound, two-time captain.
“He has worked tirelessly to put himself in position to play at even a higher level this season,” added Donnelly. “He is a ‘nose to the grindstone’ worker in the weight room and in our conditioning program. He is a great leader by example and has turned up the volume with his vocal leadership.”
Since his early youth, football and sports has been a major part of the Keller family. His father, Rob, coached him through the youth leagues, and Keller was groomed as a quarterback.
Older brother Luke played for the Patriots, and is currently in the Marine Corps. Younger sister Paige is a field hockey and lacrosse standout.
“Pat comes from a highly supportive family,” stressed Donnelly. “They are all fierce competitors on the field, and the nicest people off the field.”
Keller is confident his team can make a run at the league title as well as travel deep into the district playoffs and beyond. A win over rival CB West also is a priority. The Patriots have a scrimmage at Bethlehem Freedom Aug. 20 and then open the season at Chambersburg Aug. 27.
He saw signs last season pointing to a promising fall.
“We got our first win at Neshaminy in a while,” Keller said. “Getting to the playoffs last year was a big moment for us. We proved we could put it together to make a run. We have a good number of guys coming back, and the chemistry is there.”
And CB East has the perfect person to lead the charge.