Kurt Flaten would rather not have Caleb Johnson play defensive back this season.
It’s not that the Kewaunee football coach thinks Johnson doesn’t possess the ability to perform well at the position.
Flaten’s concerns stem mainly from where the 6-foot-1 junior plays on the other side of the ball — quarterback.
“One thing that I have always hated to do is play our quarterback both ways,” said Flaten, who’s in his 15th season as head coach. “But CJ is such a fantastic athlete, we’re going to make that risk this year. He’s definitely a guy that can make some plays.”
To say that Flaten doesn’t like to have his starting quarterback play defense is probably an understatement.
This will be the first time he plans on doing so at the start of a season since 1999, which was the last time Kewaunee missed the playoffs.
But unlike that year, Johnson already has a valuable season of starting experience at quarterback under his belt. He led the Olympian/Packerland-Large Conference in passing yards (1,511) and touchdowns (16).
“It is a little different situation for us,” said Flaten, whose career record is 134-37. “I can’t knock our other (former) quarterbacks because they were all talented, three-sport athletes. CJ just brings something a little extra to the position. Out of the quarterbacks we’ve had, he’s probably the most athletic.”
Two years removed from winning the WIAA Division 4 state championship, the Storm will need to depend heavily on the play-making ability of Johnson on both sides of the ball, especially early in the season.
Kewaunee opens the year on the road against Wrightstown — last year’s D4 state champion — and two weeks later plays at Brillion, which made it to the D5 state semifinals after winning the D5 state title in 2010.
Those two squads accounted for all three of the Storm’s losses last season, including a 36-12 defeat at Wrightstown in the D4 quarterfinals.
Needless to say, Flaten feels the OP-Large will be stacked once again, even though the top three finishers last year all sustained hefty graduation losses.
“The top three dogs in the conference, I think we’re all going to be on the weaker side and everybody else is going to be on the stronger side,” Flaten said.
Flaten said his team is strongest on the perimeter, where senior Logan Kassner will be featured at tailback and senior Ben Miller will move into the No. 1 receiver role. Kassner and Miller will also join Johnson in the defensive backfield.
The Storm’s biggest question marks will be on the offensive and defensive lines, which Flaten said lack depth and experience. Overall, Kewaunee returns four starters on offense and four on defense.
“For a young team like we’ve got … this is a year where I kind of miss those nonconference games where you can get your young guys to get their feet wet,” Flaten said.
“But you’re always going to be in pretty good shape when you’ve got experience at (quarterback) because you can do a lot of things with an experienced one.”