Keaton Casey was patiently biding his time.
While Waubonsie Valley edged Glenbard East and Metea Valley in close games, and then lost to West Aurora during homecoming, the Warriors senior wide receiver didn’t catch a single pass.
He was long overdue.
His time came on Oct. 17 in a crucial 35-28 Upstate Eight Valley Conference win against rival Neuqua Valley.
Taking the field with only six catches to his name all season — and none since Sept. 19 — Casey caught eight passes from quarterback Zack Bennema for 139 yards, including the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
“We knew our best receiver was Casey,” Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy said. “We just threw enough hitch routes on them.”
There hasn’t been any doubt that Casey could make big plays. He simply hadn’t had many opportunities.
“He’s been an important part of the offense all season and he just showed why (against Neuqua Valley),” Bennema said. “In the first seven games we didn’t pass very much, but we still went to him a bit. He’s stayed humble. He doesn’t complain at all about wanting the ball more or anything. He wants to win and he knows we need him.”
It simply was only a matter of time before the Warriors showed off such a potent offensive weapon. Casey had single catches in the Warriors’ first three games, then caught three passes for 50 yards in a win against Bartlett in Week 4.
“You learn how to win on Monday through Thursday so you’ve got to work on your craft week by week and then see what happens on Friday,” Casey said. “It really didn’t affect me much not getting the ball because we’ve come out with a plan and it’s worked.”
It’s not as if Casey hadn’t been contributing either during those Fridays where his stat sheet was blank. He understands that being a wide receiver involves much more than running routes and making catches.
Watching former teammate Christian Gibbs play last year also helped him.
“He would put guys on their butts and that’s something I’ve tried to do to these corners too,” he said. “I’m not just out there playing patty-cake with them. I’m trying to knock them down.”
As the Warriors have steamrolled most teams with their running attack, sometimes making a big block downfield during a running play is the difference between a first down and a touchdown. They’ve certainly gotten their share of huge runs. The Warriors have rushed for 2,153 yards and 29 touchdowns.
“He plays with his heart on his sleeve and always gives his all no matter what,” Bennema said. “I don’t think anyone knows that he cramped up on the hitch-and-go last week (to win the game). He just fought through it, ran his route and made a great catch.”
Casey now has 16 catches for 314 yards and five touchdowns. He tore his MCL and meniscus in the same knee during the last day of summer camp in 2011 so he was unable to play football freshman year.
He’s been able to overcome that and remain a speedster that’s difficult to match-up against. He hopes his continued success this year will lead him into a college program.
“I definitely hope to keep on playing,” he said. “Hopefully I can catch on somewhere like Grambling State. We’ll see if they offer something soon.”