June 28, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Colts’ Keene hungry for big season

Rick Noland
The Gazette
Cloverleaf’s Jon Keene is hungry. Not only for the peach cobbler he can whip up just like Mom and Grandma or the trout he catches or rabbits and deer he hunts, but for success on the football field.
Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 350 pounds, the senior offensive tackle will play a pivotal role in helping Cloverleaf running backs eat up huge chunks of yardage this season.
“Jon’s going to be critical for us,” veteran coach Bob Lake said. “Last year, he had a real good year. This year, we’re expecting bigger and better things. He’s somebody we’re going to run the football behind.”
Keene, who lettered as a sophomore and started on the offensive line as a junior, is drawing looks from colleges like Akron, Cincinnati and Syracuse. He can bench press 325 pounds and do 19 repetitions with 225. He can also deadlift 500 and squat 405, so strength isn’t an issue.
Keene’s 40-yard dash time is only 5.7 seconds, but good feet help him prevent defensive linemen from getting to quarterback Garrison Flora.
“I’m not a blazer in the 40,” he said. “I don’t have good strides, but my feet are quick. Those little six-inch steps, I can step faster than most people.”
Keene enjoys cooking — “I’m an offensive lineman; I like to eat,” he said — but plans to major in biology and criminal justice, with the goal of becoming a game warden.
“It’s my love for the outdoors,” he said. “I like being outside. I can’t handle a job where you’re inside all day between four walls.”
Keene spends enough time in close proximity with others. As a weak-side offensive tackle who will also see some action at defensive tackle and nose guard, he loves life in the trenches on the football field.
“I like the challenge of having someone across from me that wants to get to the running back and tackle him,” he said. “I look at it as a challenge to see if I can block him and keep him from getting to our guy.
“You’ve got to be a rough, tough kid that’s not afraid to hit somebody. A wide receiver can go out for a pass and not get touched at all. On the offensive line, you’re getting hit every single play. There’s no play where you’re not knocking down somebody or getting knocked down.”
If the Colts are to improve on their 2-8 overall record and 0-7 mark in the Suburban League from a year ago, Keene will have to win a lot more of those battles than he loses.
Lake, who thinks his offensive tackle can play at the Mid-American Conference level, is confident that will be the case.
“He’s an outstanding run blocker for us,” the coach said. “He gets on people and runs his feet well for a big man. I certainly think he has MAC potential.
“Jon’s a hard worker and he has a great attitude. He always has a smile and is always willing to help someone out. He looks out for people and brings real positive leadership to our team.”
Keene’s enthusiasm and hunger are due in part to being too heavy to play football when he was in grade school. When he was finally able to get on the field as a seventh-grader, it was “the best thing ever.”
The goal now is to block so well the Cloverleaf offense doesn’t have to come off it until it reaches the end zone.
“We have a lot of people working hard right now,” Keene said. “We have some pretty good offensive and defensive linemen and we have a lot more people who are focused on winning games and pushing themselves to go harder. We’ll have what it takes to beat teams in the fourth quarter no matter who we’re going against.”
That his name is unlikely to appear in headlines during the season does not concern Keene in the slightest. His reward is helping the Colts score.
“I like what I do,” Keene said. “I like blocking people. It doesn’t bother me that I don’t get credit for scoring touchdowns. Our running backs know if we’re not there, they’re not going to get anything. They treat us better than most people would treat an offensive lineman.”
In addition to knowing he will be an important factor in victories, Keene’s appetite has been further whetted by the possibility of landing a college scholarship.
“You’re playing football and doing what you love to do and they’re going to help you out,” he said of college programs. “I look at an athletic scholarship as a blank check with the coach’s name on it that you get to fill out with how good you play.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.