Through the first two games of the season, Keenan Carter has been more than a reasonable facsimile of Da’Shaun Brown.
In fact, it could be submitted that Carter has been superior to Brown, the graduated first-team Associated Press All-State quarterback who led the St. Catherine’s High School football team to a state championship last season.
Says who? Brown himself, who is 300 miles southeast in Bloomington, Ind., these days. The redshirt wide receiver for Indiana University is well aware of what Carter offers.
“Keenan has always a been a great player,” Brown said in a telephone interview after practice Tuesday morning. “I have no doubt in my mind that he can have a better season than I did. Going to state and winning it, I definitely think it’s a possibility for those guys.”
Whether Carter can approach Brown remains to be seen considering his predecessor passed for 1,322 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 1,528 and 22 TDs last season.
But Carter is certainly off to a good start. Through two games, he has completed 11 of 14 passes for 332 yards, with six touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s off to a slower start running the ball with 85 yards and two touchdowns on six carries, but he’s a potent threat with his legs.
Just ask Catholic Central coach Tom Aldrich, who brings his team to Horlick Field for a Metro Classic Conference game against the Angels at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“He’s an electric ballplayer,” Aldrich said. “He’s got the ability to make kids miss — and at the last minute, too. And he’s got a nice arm. He throws the ball really well. He’s a very sound and very good football player.”
And just ask his former teammate.
“He’s come a long way with running ability,” Brown said. “It hasn’t always been like that his whole high school career. He has developed that, which I love to see. I always liked his passing, but running is something I like to do. Seeing him do the same thing is definitely something I love seeing.”
The end of a rivalry
With the Metro Classic Conference getting re-aligned after this season, this will be the last matchup between St. Catherine’s and Catholic Central, barring any nonconference games between the two programs down the road.
It’s been a good county rival between schools 30 miles apart. Catholic Central won the first three matchups starting in 2008, when the Hilltoppers became the first WIAA state champion in football from the county (St. Catherine’s matched that feat last season). But the Angels have since won seven of the last eight.
While Angels, ranked second among medium-enrollment schools in this week’s AP state poll, will again be the favorite, they could be tested Thursday night.
Catholic Central, which has just 24 players in its program and was forced to forfeit the final three games of the 2017 season when injuries took a toll on its low numbers, has been a surprise so far.
After getting edged 10-9 by University School of Milwaukee in its season opener, Catholic Central rolled to a 35-14 victory over Living Word Lutheran last Friday. Brandon Pum completed seven of 11 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 105 yards and TDs on 19 carries.
Catholic Central won despite nine fumbles, six of which they lost.
“It was a sign of great perseverance,” Aldrich said. “They didn’t give up and they didn’t turn on each other when things were going against us. From a team-building standpoint, it was really a nice contest that we were able to overcome the adversity that the game presented to us. To come out with a victory makes it all that much better.”
Patience pays off
Around this time last season, Colvin Kuehnl was on the verge of turning in his equipment to Horlick coach Brian Fletcher. He was a seldom-used offensive lineman who felt he was overweight (260 pounds) and he was still struggling with the tragic death of his father, Christian.
Christian, who coached Colvin for three years in the RYS League, died on Dec. 26, 2013.
“Man, he meant a lot,” Kuehnl said. “He taught me pretty much everything I know about football.”
Colvin, who didn’t elaborate on how his father died, endured some emotional issues afterward and went on to be dismissed from St. Catherine’s Middle School because of his conduct. He enrolled at Horlick as a freshman in 2016 and played football, but he was still struggling emotionally as a junior.
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“It wasn’t so much playing time,” Kuehnl said when asked if he was getting frustrated with his reserve status. “I was having so much going on outside. I was missing my dad so much that it was making me not really want to play anymore.”
Fortunately for Kuehnl, Horlick coach Brian Fletcher became a father figure to him. He encouraged Kuehnl to stick with the program.
“I had a talk with ‘Fletch’ and he really meant everything he said,” Kuehnl said. “It was really heart-felt.”
Not only did he not quit, Kuehnl inspired himself to become the best he could be as a senior. Feeling he had a chance to play at guard after the graduation of Ben Zahn, Kuehnl dropped from 262 pounds in March to 223 by the time summer practice started. He did this without being told to by Horlick’s coaching staff.
Kuehnl earned a starting position and, through two games, has been instrumental in Horlick averaging 5.8 yards per rushing attempt. What’s more, he’s maintaining a 3.2 grade-point average and hopes to play football in college.
In a way, football has been a salvation for a once troubled young man.
“They’re counting on me to come in, work hard, do what I need to do in the classroom and not get in trouble and stuff,” Kuehnl said of the commitment to playing. “I’m playing football — I did it so many years with my dad — that it kind of keeps the connection and relationship. Even though he’s not here, I keep the relationship by playing.”
For Fletcher, Kuehnl’s story underscores the value of giving a troubled young man something to achieve.
“He’s playing real well for us on the offensive line,” Fletcher said. “He’s a senior captain and I’m just proud of the commitments he’s making in his personal life. He was in the weight room all during the offseason and summer working hard.
“To be able to use football as a platform to bring that out of kids is really what being in this business is all about. I’m just real proud of the young man that he’s becoming.”
Union Grove vs. Waterford
Union Grove rebounded nicely after a rough season-opening 41-27 loss to Racine Lutheran, during which the Broncos lost star lineman Mickey Rewolinski for the season with a leg injury on the first play of the game.
They rallied to defeat Park 20-16 in the first meeting between the two schools. Quarterback Nash Wolf, who was held out of the opener because of an injury, came back to complete seven of 15 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns and rush for 27 yards and another score.
But the Broncos will have a big assignment Friday when they host Waterford in their Southern Lakes Conference opener. Waterford, which is ranked 11th among large school teams in this week’s AP state poll, has outscored its first two opponents 50-7.
Senior running back Tanner Keller has been dominant with 390 yards and five touchdowns on only 34 carries. And running mate Dominic Miller has also been a force with 204 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
Union Grove will try to end a long drought against Waterford. The Broncos’ last victory in this rivalry was Oct. 22, 2008, when they won 14-13 at Union Grove. Dan Vyvyan rushed for 180 yards and both of the Broncos’ touchdowns that day.
This week’s honors
TEAM: Waterford is on the verge of breaking into the top 10 among large schools in this week’s AP state poll after a dominating 35-7 victory over Oak Creek, which is one of the favorites this season in the Southeast Conference.
The Wolverines (2-0) gashed Oak Creek for 328 rushing yards on 34 carries — an average of 9.6 yards per attempt behind Tanner Keller and Dominic Miller. But defense might have been even more impressive, allowing just 38 yards on 15 carries — an average of 2.5 yards per attempt.
OFFENSE: Burlington coach Steve Tenhagen asks a great deal of his quarterbacks and he hasn’t been disappointed by Dalton Damon. In a 41-29 victory over Horlick, the senior rushed for 229 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries and completed nine of 12 passes for 126 yards and a TD.
DEFENSE: Senior outside linebacker Aundre Hale, a returning starter for the WIAA Division 4 state champions, was a force in the Angels’ 31-13 victory over Marshall. He had 10 solo tackles, one assist and a sack in helping the Angels limit Marshall to 197 yards. “He destroyed lead blockers and had a relentless pursuit to the ball,” St. Catherine’s coach Dan Miller said.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Cora Anderson continues to be Miss Automatic for Burlington. In the Demons’ 41-29 victory over Horlick, she converted all five of her extra-point attempts. The senior is 11 for 11 this season.