Verhoeven brings defensive mentality to Elkhorn offense
Can you imagine Lawrence Taylor or Clay Matthews playing quarterback?
It probably isn’t too hard for Elkhorn High School coach Tom Lee to fathom now that he has pegged second-team all-conference outside linebacker Keaton Verhoeven as his starting quarterback.
Verhoeven, who previously was a starting quarterback in his freshman and sophomore seasons for the Elks’ junior varsity team before moving solely to linebacker last year, is expected to bring his hard-nosed linebacker mentality to the quarterback position.
“Keaton is a tough kid and physically strong and fast,” Lee said. “He is the perfect kid you want at quarterback and to be a leader of an offense.”
One thing is for sure, Verhoeven won’t be running to the sidelines to avoid a big hit.
“Running definitely is Keaton’s strength,” Lee said. “But he certainly can throw the ball accurately, as well.”
Verhoeven’s smash-mouth style may come in handy early in the season as the Elks attempt to replace four starting offensive linemen.
Ian McDonald returns to anchor the Elks’ line with seniors Dylan Linhart, Jordan Keithley, Tyler Bemus also in the mix.
Running behind the McDonald line will be a deep group of running backs that includes Keenan Leahy, Jordan Barr, and John Olsen.
“We have really good depth and speed in the backfield this season,” Lee said. “It will be a strength.”
Receivers Jonathan Wulff and Chase Janaky will provide balance in the passing game.
The Elks’ offense will look to improve its scoring numbers from last season, when a strong defense led to a first playoff appearance in five years.
“It was huge for our kids and the program to make playoffs,” Lee said. “Now that we’ve gotten a taste of it, we want to return.”
Elkhorn will rely on its speed and experience in the defensive secondary to lead the way this season. That unit includes Wulff, Leahy, and Olsen.
Verhoeven will continue to anchor the linebackers behind linemen Alex Sierra, Keithley, Linehart, and McDonald.
As both the offensive and defensive units take shape, Lee said his squad will be much different this season.
“We will be a lot faster,” Lee said. “It’s been our downfall the last couple years, when we’ve faced much faster teams. We certainly do have strong kids that are physical, but we have the added speed that will really help us against some of the teams in our conference.”
Lee expects Lake Geneva Badger, Waterford, and Wilmot to once again lead the way in conference, with Burlington and Delavan-Darien being potential sleeper teams.
The veteran coach also expects Elkhorn to fit somewhere in that pool of five teams, with the expectations of another winning conference season and return trip to the playoffs.
“I don’t know where the four conference wins are going to come from,” Lee said, “but we expect to get at least four.”