Class C-2 has some very high caliber running backs that will be causing headaches for defenses in 2019. Matter of fact, C-2 has more returning 1000 yard runners than any other 11-Man class. Let’s have a look.
*2019 Class C-2 Returning 1000 Yard Rushers*
Jacob Keiser-Hartington Cedar Catholic - 5-10, 185, Senior** (1,450 yards) - I’ll bet Cedar’s opponents think this kid is never going to graduate. One of 11-Man football’s most complete packages, Jacob Keiser will be working on his third straight 1000 yard rushing season when the Trojans hit the home turf August 30th against powerful BRLD.
The swift, hard charging Keiser gained 1,437 yards as a sophomore, then followed that up with 1,450 last season. His three year total now reads 3,463 yards rushing with 38 touchdowns. Last season Jacob also hauled in 17 passes for 172 yards and a pair of Cedar Catholic TDs, logged152 yards in punt returns and 275 yards worth of kick returns with a touchdown thrown in there. That’s 2,049 total yards and 4,339 total career yards.
Keiser is also a vicious linebacker, making 40 tackles with 7 tackles for losses.
A soon-to-be three starter on both sides of the ball, Jacob Keiser is about as punishing a runner a you’ll see in Class C-2. The guy has sprinter speed on the football field and some of the finest vision anywhere in 11-Man football.
Honest to goodness, I swear Keiser practices running through pumpkin patches the way the dude high steps over defenders, and those “S” patterns he weaves all over the football field reminds me of a serpent weaving his way through tight quarters, then shrinking in size to slip, slide and glide through those danger zones.
And leg strength? Good grief, this dude is strong. The past two seasons Jacob Keiser has shed more tacklers than Hollywood’s Liz Taylor shed husbands. I also cannot think of another back in Class C-2 that has created more yards after contact than Hartington CC’s Jacob Keiser.
I’ll say it like I did for Gabe Conant, Mr.Keiser’s name should be synonymous with HCC running greats like Chad Koch (2,475 in 2009), Preston Leise (1,824 in 2007), Jeff Leise (1,661 in 1976), Shane Kuchta (1,607 in 1983) and Ryan Becker (1,572 in 2014).
Jacob Keiser is that good.
*Eli Larson-St. Paul - 6-0, 210, Junior (1,367 yards) - Big, powerful, and with sprinter’s speed, Eli Larson exploded on the scene as a sophomore last season, and it came during Game five if I recall correctly.
The explosion occurred against Wood River after the St. Paul coaching staff decided to go with a more run oriented offense. The Wildcats were 2-2 when Larson was getting the ball 8 times a game and gaining an average of 52 yards with a touchdown each contest.
And Eli’s numbers following the switch? How about 134 carries for 1,160 yards with 19 TDs the next five outings, as the ‘Cats reeled 5 consecutive wins before falling to defending C-1 Norfolk Catholic in the opening round of the 2018 C-2 playoffs.
It appears the ‘Cats will return a good offensive line, so the dazzling Eli Larson will have more opportunities to score, although he did so last season in nearly every conceivable way there was to reach the end zone.
In addition to those 1,367 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns, the St. Paul flyer caught 7 passes for 143 yards and 2 scores, compiled a whopping 453 kick return yards (30 per return) and aTD via that route, and for good measure, picked up a GICC fumble and took that in for a score.
On defense, Larson was a holy terror, recording 54 tackles (32 solos), recovering 2 fumbles and picking off a pass in that GICC game.
Keep a close watch on Eli Larson, friends. He is an All-State and candidate at both RB (FB?) and linebacker.
*Sean Hampton-Gibbon - 5-10, 170, Junior (1,197 yards) - May be the only 1000 yard rusher I’ve recorded the past 45 years that played for a team that didn’t win a game during the season. That’s tough to do, but Gibbon lost some heartbreakers in 2018 and had a super, super head coach in Mark McLaughlin, who has now taken the reins at Platteview.
The only two teams that held the sophomore under 100 yards rushing were Bridgeport and St. Paul, and on a rainy, foggy evening at GINW, Hampton nearly broke the State Single Game Rushing Record when he bolted for a monsterous 422 yards on 41 grueling carries ( 2 TDs).
Sean followed in the footsteps of some extraordinary Gibbon running back/linebackers, who appear to have influenced his running style and brutal linebacking skills. When you gain 1,197 yards and make 72 tackles with 48 solo stops on defense as a sophomore, you put yourself in company with the likes of former Buffalo recent greats as Jacob Tracy, Eli Van Matre, Jeff Hall and Tanner Gideon.
Sean Hampton has all the tools, great foot speed, leaping ability,above average vision, and a burst at the point of contact on both sides of the ball. Only negatives I see, which are both correctable, are holding on to the football and keeping his emotions under control. But the bottom line still is the fact that this youngster posted those kind of numbers on both sides of the ball as a sophomore for a winless football team and there are nothing but great times ahead for Sean Hampton.
*Jackson Perrien-Sutton - 5-11, 200, Senior (1,172 yards) - Dual-Threat quarterback a year ago for C-2 state semifinalist Sutton that had a nose for the end zone like you wouldn’t believe. Perrien was an absolute threat to drop back one tiny step out of that Mustang shotgun formation, then take off on a beeline for the end zone every single time he took a snap on offense. And the Sutton smoothie certainly wasn’t going to be caught once he broke into the open field. No way.
One of the reasons Jackson Perrien was so dangerous in 2018 was the presence of RB Brett Simonsen, who ran for 1,845 yards 27 touchdowns. That opened up things big time for the jet propelled Perrien, who ended the season with 1,172 yards running the football and 926 yards throwing it.
The junior quarterback was much more successful on the ground with his blinding speed than he was through the airwaves. It wasn’t the fact that Jackson couldn’t locate his receivers because he completed 62% of his 92 passing attempts. The thing that was unfortunate was the fact he threw twice as many interceptions as touchdown passes, but know this, Jackson Perrien’s positives far, far outweighed the aforementioned statistic.
Anyway, that will not be a problem this year because Sutton head coach Steve Ramer and staff have apparently already made up their minds to move Jackson Perrien to a running back position for the 2019 season. And that my friends, is really frightening for anyone playing the Mustangs this Fall..
So, insert 5-8, 145 junior Cade Wiseman into that Quarterback slot this Fall and don’t you worry one little bit about this young man managing the role. The reason is simply bloodline baby. Big time bloodlines accompany that magic Wiseman name.
Keep a close watch on this Sutton bunch this Fall and don’t feel too sorry for their graduation losses. Hey, there’s plenty of talent returning around Jackson Perrien to make this crew a big time player in the Class C-2 playoff picture come November. And one reason for that is Mr. Perrien is simply a master of trickery with a football in his hands.
*Will Gatzemeyer-BRLD- 5-10, 175, Senior (1,088 yards) - Talk about a Dual-Threat QB, Will Gatzemeyer is about as good as it gets in Class C-2 if you want a guy that can throw the ball well with the ability to flat out light up the scoreboard with touchdown passes.
Last season the multi-talented Gatzemeyer completed 129 of 226 passes for 2,511 yards and 30 touchdowns with only 5 INTs. That’s in addition to rushing for 1,088 yards and another 16 TDs. Folks, that’s 1 lonely yard short of 3,600 total yards of offense in 2018. And of course Will Gatzemeyer played defense. Sure he did, to the tune of 47 solo tackles, 33 assists, 6 tackles for losses, and 2 interceptions.
And you say to yourself, knowing the talent this team had in basketball as well as football, who in the world beat BRLD during the 2018 football season? Well, they suffered 3 losses. One to a very good Oakland-Craig squad and the remaining pair to the teams that played for the C-2 title in Lincoln, Centennial and Norfolk Catholic.
Back to Will Gatzemeyer, this is thee guy that makes the BRLD machine go on the gridiron. It all goes through the slick quarterback, who can burn you with his pinpoint passing or kill you when he decides to sprint out of that Wolverine backfield with the football.
Hard to say whether Will favors throwing the ball to running it, but BRLD did put the ball in the air 54% of the time in 2018, mainly because Gatzemeyer can flat out spot his receivers downfield and deliver the ball precisely where it’s supposed to be. And when you are completing 57% of your 129 passes and nearly every 4th one is a touchdown, your coach is going to call some pass plays once in a while, don’t ‘cha think?
No question that Will Gatzemeyer is one of Class C-2 most gifted all-around athletes and if I recall correctly, BRLD returns most of their starters this Fall from that terrific 2018 squad.
*Tyler Ruhl-Centura - 6-3, 200, Senior (1,038 yards) - Speaking of gifted athletes and Dual-Threat QBs, the former Norris High product Tyler Ruhl is just that. A brutal, bone crushing Class C-2 All-State Linebacker a year go for the Centurions, Ruhl not only rushed for those 1,038 big ones, but was adept enough at the QB position to complete 50% of his 197 tosses for 1,498 yards and 15 TDs.
Tyler recorded a high number 92 tackles from that linebacker position, earning him those All-State honors. Ruhl also picked off 2 passes and blocked a punt for good measure for that 5-4 Centura team in 2018.
Had Ruhl not be selected at linebacker on that C-1 All-State team a year ago, he probably could have made it as a punter with his 39 yards per boot average. Tyer also handles the kick-off duties, much to his liking, because then he rarely comes of the battlefield.
By now most of you know his best sport is baseball, reflected by his scholarship to play the sport next year at Kansas State. So, one may have to conclude that if football isn’t even Tyler Ruhl’s best sport, the dude just has to be one of Class C-2’s best.
*Keithan Stafford-Doniphan-Trumbull -6-0, 160, Senior (1,037 yards) - Long striding junior was money, not only as a ball carrier last season for the Cardinals, but was a lethal pass target out of the backfield for D-T quarterback Griffin Hendricks. Stafford latched on to 15 Hendricks aerials in 2018, good for 315 yards and one TD. That went along well with his 13 rushing scores don’t you think?
Stafford doesn’t weigh a ton, but can hit the line in an instant after grabbing the handoff. Keithan loves to angle toward the end zone and rarely wastes any space with unnecessary moves getting there. It’s all business for No. 22 when he gets the football.
Stafford has decent track speed, but his long stepping strides (ala 400 meter men) allow him to cover ground much faster, and that simply transfers to……..excellent football speed.
On defense, Keithen is a lean, mean tackling machine from his linebacker position for Doniphan-Trumbull and let me tell you, this lad knows how to tackle. Pure form tackling. Not many got past Stafford in 2018 if they faced him with a one-on-one situation.
Out of Keithan’s 60 made tackles last year, 47 were solo stops. If you have the football and Keithan Stafford is bearing down on you, chances are he’s gonna get ‘cha.
This kid is fits right into the mold of former great Doniphan-Trumbull RBs like Jordan Slough, Braden Schuppan, Mark Zeckser, Triston Stevens and Clayton Spiehs, although we all know there can be only one in the class of Jordan Slough. But the fact remains, Keithan Stafford is a very good, game changing type football talent.
*Ethan Villwok-Fremont Bergan - 6-0, 200, Senior (1,015 yards) - Oh man, do not underestimate this young man’s speed. Two hundred pounds distributed on Ethan Villwok’s frame give him the appearance of a well-oiled long distance, RB touchdown threat, instead of a burly fullback. But then again, who said he was a fullback?
Last season as a junior, Villwok sprinted for 1,015 yards and 10 TDs against a pretty rugged schedule. In 2017 as a sophomore, a then 185 pound Ethan not only ran for 448 yards, but he returned a pair of kickoffs to the opponent’s end zone. Villwok still has that kind speed for the most part despite adding 15 pounds of muscle.
The Archbishop Bergan dandy also is a menace from his LB slot, illustrated by his 41 tackles in 2018. Strangely enough, there were some fans a year ago wondering who Ethan Villwok was when he popped up on my 1000 Yard Club list. No surprise to me because Ethan was ready to take kind of jump.
The powerful Villwok has really remarkable strength in his lower body, always dragging and dragging defenders along for a five to eight yard ride after the initial contact…...that is, if the Knights RB doesn’t kick the jets in and take it to the house prior to that contact.
Once again, I find a running back in Ethan Villwok that reminds me in many ways of former St. Paul great, now of national Crossfit fame, Kyle Kasperbauer. Ethen gets the pitch, hits the corner than just gildes, slides and breezes alongside his blockers until he sees an opening. Then, in a blink of an eyelash, the Villwok jets kick in and…….he gone.
You watch this youngster really explode in 2019. He has all the tools; speed, vision, balance, lower body strength, football smarts and a super coach in Seth Mruz t get it done.
When the smoke clears in ‘19, Ethan Villwok’s name will be right up there alongside of former Bergan running legends Mark Evert (1,642 in 1982), Jamie Ringle (1,627 in 1998 and 1,177 in ‘97), Joel Wiedel (1,625 in 2012), Seth Mruz (1,379 in 2004)..Seth Mruz!......Mark Mendlik (1,276 in ‘78 and 1,364 in ‘79), Luke Brabec (1,338 in 2000), Adam Anderson (1,214 in 1994 and 1,147 in ‘95) and Paul Mooney (1,202 in 1996).