Three-sport athlete Keema standout at outside linebacker
Jace Keema is playing the waiting game, and being productive while doing it.
A year ago, Keema quarterbacked the Carson JV squad to a Sierra League championship, and he’s certainly a good enough quarterback to start on most teams in the league.
Currently, Keema is waiting for next year when he’ll undoubtedly be the Senators’ starting quarterback after current starter Joe Nelson graduates.
Until then, Keema is starting at outside linebacker, and he’s an important reason why Carson has rolled to three straight wins heading into Friday’s homecoming battle against the Hug Hawks, 1-2. Keema is coming off a 13-tackle effort last week against Spanish Springs, and he also has an interception and fumble recovery en route to his season total of 29 tackles.
“I felt I’ve done OK,” Keema said before Monday’s practice. “I definitely can get better which I plan on doing. My job is more run support, but obviously I have to get depth (in pass defense) when needed.
“I played middle linebacker when I was in eighth grade, but I like outside linebacker better. I feel like it gives me more opportunity to run around and make plays. I like the aggressiveness of defense; getting after it.”
And, Carson coach Blair Roman likes his junior linebacker/back-up quarterback.
“The biggest thing I like about Jace is the way he competes,” Roman said. “He has a strong will to win. He is a heckuva of a defensive player. They (Spanish Springs) ran a lot of plays to his side last week. I thought he did a good job.
“I know deep down he’d like to be playing quarterback. I can’t speak for other schools, but he is good enough to start for us. We’re fortunate to have two real good quarterbacks. He is a perfect fit for our offense. He’s a very quick study in terms of reading and he’s a capable passer.”
Keema doesn’t lack for confidence, but he’s also realistic. He’s 4-for-5 passing with a TD in spot appearances against Reed and North Valleys.
“I have to learn the offense better,” Keema said. “I know I have to be ready each week, so I can be productive if I’m needed.
“The game is faster (at the varsity level). Other than that there isn’t a lot of difference between playing quarterback on JV compared to varsity. One of my strengths is that I’m smart with the ball.”
Keema is a rarity in high school sports, especially in the day of specialization. He’s a three-sport varsity player (football, basketball and baseball). It’s not easy, balancing sports, academics and social life. Keema is a 3.8 student.
“It’s definitely been tough,” he said. “You have to make a lot of sacrifices. It’s been a hard ride trying to balance everything.”
The summers can be a little crazy.
Summer baseball starts Memorial Day weekend, and Keema, an infielder for coach Brian Manoukian, is busy with that usually through the July 4th weekend. He’s also practicing with the basketball team and playing in tournaments for coach Carlos Mendeguia. He said he usually starts getting ready for football (weights, general conditioning) toward the end of July.
It hasn’t been uncommon for Keema and others on the baseball team who play basketball too, to miss a baseball game. Or, in one instance a couple of years ago, to play in a tournament game and then hop in a car and drive to a basketball tournament and play hoops the rest of the weekend because the tournaments are usually out of the area.
It’s a juggling act, and the athlete is caught in the middle trying to satisfy all his coaches because all high school sports need to be played outside the season to have success. This isn’t just a Carson High thing, it’s prevalent at all schools.
Keema admitted if he had to give up a sport or had the desire to give up a sport it would be basketball.
For right now, though, he plans on continuing to play all three sports and making valuable contributions in all three. He’s already doing that with football, and Roman hopes it continues.