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|11/14/2012 ||Email this article Print this article |
|Eleven Sabers make All-3A district 6 squad|
By Ross Eberhart
With a three-way tie for the 3A district 6 title, it only seemed fitting that the Central, Marion and Solon football teams would be connected again with the release of the all-district teams.
All three squads had a district-best 11 players earn the designation with the Sabers placing seven players on the first team and four more on the second.
Leading the way for Central, who had 10 players make the team each of the past two seasons, were seniors Chris Keitel and Austin Lechtenberg, who both landed on the first team for a second-straight year.
They are not the only returnees as three second-team selections from last year - A.J. Smith, Drew Volrath and Cameron Donovan - moved up to the first team this year.
Joining the handful of returnees are seniors Mitch Green and Jake Thumann, who also were selected to the first team.
While seniors dominate the first team, juniors dominate the second as three of the four Saber selections - Jake Feldpausch, Drew Schroeder and Jake Kagemann - will be back next year.
Joining the three juniors is senior cornerback Mitch Kirby.
Nobody in 3A district 6 ended up rushing for more yards this fall than Keitel, who amassed 1,358 from his fullback position, while scoring nine touchdowns.
The rushing total is not only tops in the district, but also good for ninth in all of class 3A as Keitel became the first Saber running back since Tyler Driscoll in 2003 to gain over 1,000 yards on the ground.
"Chris is a tremendous back," Central head coach Mike Miller said. "We put him in the situation where he was going to be hit whether he had the ball or not, and he kept going.
"All of his yards were hard-earned, there were many times where he was dragging defenders for yards."
Keitel also proved to be a reliable target in the Saber passing attack with the senior tying for second on the team with eight catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.
The senior played linebacker as well for the Sabers and tied for fourth on the team with 57 tackles, including 26 solo stops. Fourteen of those tackles went for loss (good for second on the team) and Keitel recovered a fumble during the Sabers' state quarterfinal game with Decorah.
"To start at middle linebacker after taking all of the punishment he does is a credit to Chris' work ethic," Miller said. "As far as making the calls on defense and putting guys in the right position, we could not have asked for a better kid. The other players respected his hard work, he was the leader of our defense."
Joining Keitel as a threat in the Saber backfield was Lechtenberg, who finished 10th in the district with 411 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Along with his prowess on the ground, Lechtenberg also proved to be the Sabers' top receiving threat. The senior caught more than twice as many passes (17) as the next Central receiver (three tied with eight) and paced the Sabers with 177 receiving yards, while scoring twice.
"Austin is somebody we wanted to give the ball to more than we actually did," Miller said. "He has such a selfless attitude and, when you do call his number, he makes big plays."
On the defensive side of the ball, Lechtenberg proved to be a stout safety for the Sabers, finishing second among all Central players with 60 tackles.
Lechtenberg also was second on the team with 37 solo stops, while coming up with two tackles for loss, one interception and a fumble recovery.
"Austin was somebody who could stop the pass and also step up and slow down the run," Miller said. "He's just a special kid."
Along with Keitel and Lechtenberg, the Sabers had another offensive threat right behind center in Green, who mastered Miller's new offense.
"To go into your senior year and have to undertake a new offensive scheme and still perform the way Mitch did, it just shows the intelligence he has," Miller said. "Week in and week out, he did a fantastic job managing the offense."
Green actually finished fourth among all district players in rushing with 956 yards on the ground (another quarterback, Solon's Rory Sidell, was right behind him), averaging nearly six yards per carry in the process.
The senior found the end zone a team-best 11 times on the ground with five of the touchdowns coming during the Sabers' playoff run.
"You don't usually have a quarterback Mitch's size in an option attack, but he went against the trend," Miller said.
Green also tossed four touchdown passes during the year and successfully completed 58 of his 118 attempts for 628 yards.
"I think he proved during the latter portion of the season that he could throw the ball around too," Miller said. "I was fortunate to have a kid like him in my first year."
The task of opening up holes for the Sabers' talented backfield fell on Central's offensive line led by Donovan and Volrath.
Both two-year starters, Donovan, who played center, and Volrath, who played tackle, helped the Sabers gain nearly 4,500 yards of total offense.
The 3,636 rushing yards the Sabers' had this year were the most in class 3A and the highest total in program history with the 4,339 yards of total offense also setting a new school mark.
"Drew plays well beyond his size," Miller said of Volrath. "I think opposing coaches were taken aback because he plays so much bigger than his size - he's definitely one of the best offensive lineman I've had the pleasure of coaching."
"We were able to have the success we did running the ball because of Cameron," Miller added about Donovan. "Our ability to run inside depended on Cameron's blocking of the nose tackle."
Volrath and Donovan both wreaked havoc on the defensive line as well. The former finished the year with 56 tackles, including 13 for loss and a fumble recovery, while the latter added 50 tackles of his own with 11 going for loss and a fumble recovery of his own.
"Drew's play at defensive end was a large part of our defensive success; he had fantastic discipline," Miller said. "Cameron was able to play inside on both sides of the ball without a break and it was a credit to his preparation."
The Saber offensive line received some extra help from Smith, who had a strong season as Central's tight end.
In addition to his help with the run game, Smith also caught four passes for the Sabers, gaining 56 yards in the process.
"Tight end is not a glorious position for us, but A.J. did an outstanding job of blocking for us," Miller said.
Smith's impact was felt even more clearly on defense as the senior led the Sabers from his defensive end position.
Smith paced Central with 67 tackles and was also the team's leader in tackles for loss with 17. Thirty-one of the tackles were solo stops and Smith finished the year with six-and-a-half sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception.
"A.J. always seemed to find his way to the ball," Miller said of Smith, who also was the Sabers' punter, where he booted the ball away 35 times with a 31.7 yard average. "He has a knack for finding the football and blowing up big plays.
"He's a special kid, very coachable and you knew what you were getting each time A.J. stepped on the field."
The Sabers also got a boost on the defensive side of the ball from Thumann, who had a strong season from his linebacker spot.
Thumann ended up tying Keitel for fourth on the team with 57 tackles. The senior recorded 28 solo stops and had seven tackles for loss.
"Jake improved throughout the year," Miller said. "I think the Solon game (Thumann had six tackles and an interception) really propelled him during the year and he was continually a big factor for the defense."
With a nose for the ball, Thumann also helped the Sabers in the turnover department as the senior tied for second on the team with two interceptions, while also recovering two fumbles.
"We knew already in camp that Jake was physical, but his ability to get into the passing lanes is what impressed us the most this year," Miller said.
Thumann earned two carries for 11 yards on offense and eventually became the Sabers' kickoff specialist, averaging over 45 yards on his kicks, while also nailing two point after tries.
Both of Central's cornerbacks - Kirby and Kagemann - earned spots on the team for their play.
Only two players in the district intercepted more passes this year than Kirby, who got his hands on four passes this year.
One of those interceptions (against Benton) was returned for a touchdown and two of Kirby's picks came in Central's postseason wins over West Delaware and Marion.
Kirby added 47 tackles for the Sabers with 35 of them being solo stops. The senior forced two fumbles as well with one coming on a quarterback sack against Decorah.
"Mitch is very physical," Miller said. "When Mitch hits a kid, you hear it. We felt confident that he could make a play at any time."
In his one offensive carry of the season, Kirby dashed 33 yards for a touchdown and the senior added eight catches for 71 yards.
"I wish we could have got him more involved with the offense because even with a small sample size, you could see what he had to offer," Miller said.
Kagemann was equally affective in the Saber secondary as the junior tied for second on the team with two interceptions, while finishing third on the squad with 59 tackles.
In fact, no Saber had more solo tackles than Kagemann, who brought down 40 ball-carriers by himself. The junior had two tackles for loss as well.
"Jake really came on over the course of the year," Miller said. "By the end of the year we were confident putting him on some very good receivers."
Kagemann's other role for the Sabers came on special teams as he returned punts for the Sabers, finishing fourth among all district players with 104 return yards, including a season-best 33-yard jaunt against West Delaware.
"He had that big punt return that gave us some motivation in the playoffs," Miller said. "This year we didn't really get him involved with the offense, but that will change next year - he has big play potential."
Big plays were always a possibility when Feldpausch had the ball for the Sabers on offense or on special teams.
"When I think about Jake, I think about all of the big plays he had," Miller said.
As a running back, Feldpausch finished seventh among all district players with 522 rushing yards and the junior did it with just 75 carries (nearly seven yards per carry).
Feldpausch also scored five rushing touchdowns with a long of 78 yards against Maquoketa. The junior scored an additional touchdown on a kick return against Marion sprinting 86 yards for a touchdown (Feldpausch returned eight kicks for 165 yards).
"His run against Maquoketa might have been the turning point of the season as far as giving the team confidence," Miller said. "He has such a nice combination of size and speed, knowing he's coming back, with the potential he has, is great."
On defense, Feldpausch was used as a rush specialist and came away with 15 tackles, including eight solo stops and one tackle for loss.
Feldpausch will benefit from an offensive line that returns three players including Schroeder.
At just 5-11 and under 190 pounds, Schroeder might have been a tad undersized at guard, but the junior made up for it with strong technique and tenacity.
"Drew is a great example of what it means for a football player to have heart," Miller said. "I think it is safe to say that just being bigger doesn't mean you'll dominate, because Drew dominated the guy across from him time and time again."
In addition to helping the Sabers rush for more than 3,500 yards, Schroeder also saw time at linebacker for Central and came through with 16 tackles, including six solo stops.
"He has a great motor and he plays the game the right way," Miller said. "When we felt like Chris needed a break, we put Drew in at middle linebacker and felt just as confident."