RACINE — Before we even get to Da’Shaun Brown, here are five reasons why the St. Catherine’s High School football team will contend for a state championship this season:
- Ten starters return on offense and 10 on defense from a team that went 9-0 and won its sixth Metro Classic Conference championship in seven years last season.
- There are three players entering their fourth season as starters in linemen Tim Carthron and Guy Van Dis, and running back-linebacker D.J. Carter.
- There are nine players who are entering their third season as starters.
- For the first time since 2007, coach Dan Miller will have a double-digit number of seniors on the team. There were only three last season.
- The roster is so deep that the Angels will not be opening with any freshman on the varsity for the first time in several seasons.
“I’m really excited to have guys come back,” Miller said. “We feel, ‘Hey, this is what a program’s all about,’ when you have a lot of guys returning — especially seniors.
“So far, camp’s been really great. There’s more leadership than we’ve ever had. The practices, the tempo, the energy, the focus has all been senior driven.”
So the numbers in the program are strong and the energy is intense. That’s the foundation. The talent in this program is what pushes the Angels over the top.
It starts with Brown, who is entering his third year as starting quarterback. He is one of the most heavily-recruited players in recent Racine County memory with offers from programs including Wisconsin, Iowa, Iowa State and Syracuse.
In his two seasons as a starter, Brown has passed and ran for a total of 5,388 yards and 73 touchdowns. He has every intention of making his final high school season his finest.
“I always want to do better than I did last year,” said Brown, who is 18-4 as a starter. “I work hard in the offseason to show improvement. I’m determined to do great, but I’m also determined to win.”
But Brown isn’t going to be a one-man show with all the talent around him. As a sophomore last season, Isaiah Dodd ranked third in the county in rushing with 1,308 yards and fourth in scoring (102 points).
While Dodd is only 5-foot-6 and 150 pounds, he’ll be seeing plenty of cavernous running lanes. Lining up in the backfield with Dodd are Carter, who is 5-11 and 250, and Aleks Haeuser.
And then there’s an offensive line, which loses only left guard Austin Tuttle to graduation. Van Dis is switching from right tackle to left tackle, Carthron is moving from left tackle to left guard to replace Tuttle, Michael DeGuire is back at center and Gavin Moriarity returns at right guard.
Replacing Van Dis at right tackle is C.J. Simmons, who has seen playing time at guard and defensive end.
When Brown goes to the air, his primary target will likely be Rashid Poole, the leading receiver among returning county players this season. Poole caught 23 passes for 346 yards and six touchdowns. Also back are Azarien Stephens (who averaged 25.4 yards on 13 receptions) and T.J. Rouse, who caught 10 passes for 137 yards.
“We’re definitely a multi-formation offense,” Miller said. “We have plays for all our explosive players. It’ll be interesting to see what teams are going to focus on trying to take (Brown) out of the game and when they’re going to have to focus on the other guys. Because they’re as deadly as he is.”
Brown agrees that it won’t be wise to focus on him.
“That would be a big mistake,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of assets and shooting for one person will definitely hurt a team because we have so many people who can do things. Stopping me is not an easy task, but putting all your effort into that will hurt you, I think.”
Returnees on defense are nose guard Adrian Garcia, an honorable mention Division 4 pick on the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-State team last season, Carthon at defensive end, Anthony Cable and Aundre Hale at linebacker and Luke Letsch, Brown, Jarren Hutcherson and Dodd in the defensive backfield.
Carter moves from linebacker to defensive line and Brian Sharp from safety to linebacker.
“Everybody brings positive energy to practice and everybody knows what they’re doing,” Haeuser said. “Everybody has the same mindset that we really want to go far. We’re just determined to work at practice and do what we can this year.”