It’s not something Russ Radtke gives to just anybody, let alone his quarterbacks, so when the noted taskmaster puts his faith in his signal caller, it says a lot.
“I think he knows this offense as well as we do,” the New Prairie coach said of senior Chase Ketterer. There’s a whole lot of package there and it all depends on him calling the offenses and the defenses. It can’t be called from the sidelines. It’s his senior year. He’s a very intelligent kid. He’s got a great opportunity ahead of him and I think he’s really going to put his best foot forward to have that chance.”
Those words mean a great deal to Ketterer, whose brothers Luke and Zack played for Radtke, but were defensive backs.
“My dad was a (high school) quarterback in Pennsylvania. He played in college, in the U.S. Merchant Marine,” Chase said. “I’m the first quarterback kid. I’ve played quarterback all my life. I knew the system coming up. (Radtke) putting a lot of confidence in me, it’s a lot of pressure, but I love all of it. Getting on the field, calling the plays, that’s where I thrive.”
There’s numerous intricacies to Radtke’s offense and while he doesn’t run the full wishbone as he did at Griffith, the scheme is still based on precise reads and timing.
“His returning experience with the complexity of our offense is really an advantage,” associate head coach Bill Gumm said. “He’s one of the more well-rounded quarterbacks we’ve had in a few years.”
A third-year starter -- Ketterer started in the secondary as a sophomore -- before taking over in the backfield last season, rushing for 1,602 yards and passing for 683 with a combined 28 touchdowns.
“We can’t count on just one individual and watch him all the time,” Radtke said. “He won’t call the ball necessarily to himself all the time. You saw him when he was able to get that misdirection. (He and Chris Mays) rushed for over 2,500 yards (combined) as sophomores. They’ll get it rock and rollin.’ There’s still a package where he can option run and throw the ball. He’ll have the green light any time he wants to (pass) in a game, as long as he completes it.”
Ketterer threw just 55 times in 11 games last year, completing 36 (an average of 19 yards per reception). He laughs at the popular notion that New Prairie will throw more, knowing it’s not the first time he’s heard it.
“It’s New Prairie, obviously we don’t throw the ball a lot,” he said. “They say it every year we’re going to, and it never happens.”
Could this be the year it changes?
“He spent a lot of time getting his body ready, working with quarterback coaches, (Top Gun director) Bill Reagan,” Gumm said. “They fine tuned him. The odds we’ll throw the ball more are better. His ability will allow us to do more. It would be a great twist to our offense if he can audible to a quick hot route. Teams feel they have to stop our run. If they put seven, eight, nine guys in the box, the best way to get them to stop doing that is to throw the ball.”
With the 6-foot-1 Ketterer, Radtke has a quarterback who doesn’t have to leave the pocket to see downfield and while the Cougars aren’t blessed with blinding perimeter speed, Ian Skornog and Wyatt Kmiecik are capable pass catchers.
“It’s not a myth,” Ketterer said. “Ian’s a great route runner and Wyatt’s looking really good. Going to camps over the summer, seeing the talent, going against the all other quarterbacks, I threw the ball as well as any of them. I think I stack up well.”
So well that Ketterer even caught the attention of a prominent major college in northern Indiana (who shall remain nameless at New Prairie’s request) during an arranged workout courtesy of Gumm.
“Coach Gumm came up to me about it and I jumped on it,” Ketterer said. “At first, I was dumbfounded by it. I was like, are you kidding me right now? It was the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Ketterer didn’t waste the chance either.
“It went really good,” he said. “The pressure was on, with all the coaches there, and I performed. I felt I threw the ball better than I ever have. It was a great experience. It would be a crazy big deal for me.”
There’s a chance Ketterer will be considered for a preferred walk-in role at said school.
“That’s where they’re going to say, can you do these things and run the scout team to illustrate the defense?” Radtke said.
Even if that doesn’t pan out, Ketterer’s bound to land somewhere else for football.
“He wants to play college football and play at the highest level he can,” Gumm said.
For New Prairie, Ketterer will also see time in the secondary when the Cougars are facing a strong passing attack.
“It being my last year, it’ll be hard, but I’m ready for it,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always looked forward to. Your senior year of high school, I think everybody dreams of it. Hopefully, the next level, I can play, keep the football going. It’s one of my favorite things, my passions.”
New Prairie figures to be an offensive juggernaut once again and Ketterer aims to lead it as far as he can take it. For the record, neither of his brothers were part of a deep playoff run. It was Luke’s senior year when the Cougars went to state in 2014, but he didn’t play.
“We have a lot of potential,” Chase said. “The offensive line is crazy big, three kids over 300 pounds and two guards who are quick and can pack a punch. The ability on this offense is insane.”