Keenan Pattwell jogs into motion, then hits full speed at the snap of the ball.
The Mountain View senior receiver times the burst perfectly and takes the handoff from quarterback Tucker Rovig, then peels around the corner and turns upfield.
The Mavericks don’t take a second to pause Wednesday as they hone their no-huddle offense ahead of their first-round 5A playoff game Friday against Rigby, and Pattwell runs back to his spot for the next play.
Seven months ago, the sight of Pattwell tearing upfield even in a practice appeared remote after a two-week stay in the hospital. Doctors told him he should give up the sport. But Pattwell insisted on playing, and the Mavericks’ leading receiver credits the sport for keeping him going.
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‘IT WAS A SCARY TIME’
Pattwell walked off the field with stomach discomfort after a lacrosse match in March, and the pain worsened throughout spring break.
The night before the break ended, the agony intensified and sent Pattwell to the hospital, kicking off a medical saga he has battled ever since.
He shuffled from one doctor to the next for one test after another. He lost 25 pounds and continued to miss school. He even made a trip to Seattle five weeks ago to visit a dietary specialist before making it back in time for that week’s game against Boise.
“I was in and out of the hospital,” Pattwell said. “I didn’t really know what was going on. It was a scary time.”
Doctors eventually discovered Pattwell’s colon was filled with ulcers and fresh blood, the cause of most of his pain, and diagnosed him with an unclassified inflammatory bowel disease.
Pattwell said it could be ulcerative colitis, which causes inflammation or sores in the large intestine, or Crohn’s disease, which features many of the same symptoms but can occur anywhere in the digestive tract. Doctors told Pattwell he may never know.
“It was a lot of stress on my body,” Pattwell said. “It took a toll. My mind was going everywhere, and I didn’t really know what was going on. It was kind of all a blur.”
FINDING A TREATMENT
The diagnosis was just the beginning as Pattwell sought a treatment that worked for him. Doctors suggested a litany of medications, all with varying side effects, as he wondered if he’d ever feel like his old self again.
He credits his faith, Mountain View fans supporting his family and his mother, Kasandra, for helping him navigate options and stay positive.
“She has been my rock and my refuge,” Pattwell said. “Whenever I get in a tough spot, she’s always been there to make sure I keep going and pushing and keep me mentally strong.”
Pattwell said a new diet has controlled his symptoms and limited the pain. He follows a specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) that bans difficult-to-digest carbs, processed food and dairy, instead focusing on organic offerings and lots of meat, fruits and vegetables.
He misses his old diet, a typical one for a teenager that included anything he could get his hands on. Eating requires a lot more planning now, but the diet has made a huge difference.
“It’s turned my life upside down,” he said. “But things are looking up.”
STILL A WEAPON
The 5-8, 143-pounder entered the offseason as the Mavericks’ top offensive weapon after racking up 1,275 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior. Mountain View coach Judd Benedick said he envisioned Pattwell stepping in to fill the role of TreyTon Bell, the graduated 5A All-Idaho Player of the Year, as a threat running and catching the ball.
“He worked really hard in the winter and had put on size, like put on a lot of size,” Benedick said. “He had gotten big and bulked up. He was ready to take on the carries as a running back.
“Then battling every day what he’s battling, it’s sometimes really tough for him to make it through a practice or be able to suit up for a game.”
He is the toughest guy I know, by far.”
Judd Benedick, Mountain View football coach
Pattwell still keeps opposing defensive coaches up at night. He’s Rovig’s favorite target (22 catches, 311 yards, three TDs), and Mountain View also utilizes him on outside runs (38 carries, 204 yards, one TD) and as a kick and punt returner.
Benedick said he has to monitor how many touches a game he’s feeding Pattwell because he won’t tell coaches when he’s hurting.
“The only way you know is if you see it on his face, and he tries really hard to not let you see that,” Benedick said. “Or if he just comes off doubled up holding his stomach, whether that’s from a hit or the battle itself.”
STICKING WITH FOOTBALL
After a post-practice position meeting Wednesday, Pattwell is the last Maverick to leave the field.
He admits doctors advising him to quit football and allow his body to heal discouraged him. But even though the chronic pain makes it impossible to sleep through the night and the diet doesn’t provide much energy, he said he couldn’t imagine his life without football.
“Honestly, I don’t think if I didn’t keep playing football I’d be the kid I am right now, the happy kid,” Pattwell said. “Because football is what keeps me going, keeps my spirits up and allows me to be free and feel good.
“Even though the energy level is not there all the time — it gets really exhausting and everything, and sometimes you don’t have enough gas in the tank. But seeing all the boys and my brothers out on the field, there’s no other feeling. I can’t really describe it, but football is what kept me going.
“I don’t think I’d be where I am today without that sport.”
State volleyball, cross country
▪ Volleyball: All six state tournaments are Friday and Saturday in Idaho Falls, Rexburg and Rigby. Sixteen Western Idaho teams are in the field of their respective tournaments.
▪ Cross country: Ten championships (5A through 1A, boys and girls) will be decided Saturday at the Portneuf Wellness Complex in Pocatello. Races begin at 10 a.m.
Read preview stories on both events at IdahoStatesman.com