Reggie Jennings remembers it well.
Brookfield Central and Oshkosh North were playing to a stalemate late into the third quarter of the Level 1 playoff game last Oct. 23 at Central.
"It was raining all game," Jennings recalled. "I came off the edge - it was a screen - and I tipped a pass late in the game and Nick Leszcynski caught it and ran it down to about the 20. We scored after that and went on to win, 13-0."
Photo by Alan Herzberg, SportsPhotos LLC
Jennings, who finished the game with a team-leading 8 tackles and 1.5 sacks, is a returning junior linebacker who has already been offered a scholarship by Wisconsin. He is hoping for some more moments like that this season.
"Our team is looking good right now," he said before a recent August practice. "We just have to go out there and play ball."
The Lancers are the defending Greater Metro Conference champion, so they will have a target on their back.
When asked about that and being defending champs, Jackson flashed a big smile and said, "It's always great to be one."
Coach Jed Kennedy knows Jennings and his Lancers will have to work hard defending their title.
"We have graduated a lot of folks," Kennedy said. "If you look at our offense, we probably graduated 97% of our offense. But that's what makes it fun; that's what makes it a challenge.
"We need to find new pieces to plug in there. I think by the end of the year we have a chance to be a good football team."
Jennings will have a lot to say about how good Central's defense is this year.
Jennings plays outside linebacker, next to his good friend Leszcynski, who plays on the inside. They both move around in the defense, defending on how the offense lines up.
"Being an outside backer is pretty tough," Jennings said. "You have to stop the run, stop the pass; you have to be able to blitz. He have to be quick, strong, powerful. It's pretty much the hardest position to play.
"I just contain outside and play ball. I enjoy contact. That's the best part about football."
When asked if he likes separating the offense from the ball, Jennings eyes got big.
"Yeah, pretty much," he said. "I love quarterbacks."
Jennings has a lot of responsibility in Central's defense according to Kennedy.
"What probably makes it the hardest position in our scheme is he's got to be able to rush the passer; play the run on the line of scrimmage, yet guard receivers down the field when we're in man. So you are going to have to have a lot of athletic ability and football ability to do both of those things."
Kennedy then talked about Jennings' strengths on the field.
"He's a great pass rusher," he said. "He is so athletic, so strong. The second thing is he tackles in the open field unbelievably. His ability to make plays in the open field is as about as good as I ever had."
Jennings first began playing youth football with Milwaukee Custer as a sixth grader before moving over to the Jr. Lancers.
It didn't take Jennings long to know this was the route to go for him.
"From the first day of practice, I loved it," he said. "I always wanted to play football."
Jennings is coming off an outstanding sophomore season, making All-Conference as he led the team with 31 individual tackles, 16 more than his buddy Leszcynski. He led the team with 64 total tackles, 10 tackles for losses, 5.5 sacks and two fumbles.
Despite all these impressive stats, Jennings moves aside questions about personal goals like he does offensive linemen.
"I really don't have personal goals," he said. "I just think about it as a team and every year our goal is the state championship."
Kennedy speaks highly of Jennings - on and off the field.
"I think he's just a great kid," the veteran coach said. "He obviously has all the on the field things we're looking for. But he also has all the off the field stuff too - he's a great team guy, he's humble, he has all those other qualities too."
Everyone knows how tough August practices can be with the hot, humid weather. But Jennings had some interesting thoughts on the early workouts.
"For me, I really like seeing how the team 'molds' (comes together) under these conditions," he said. "It's great to watch and see how the season is going to go from this. I like to see us compete. That makes us a better team. If a guy goes out you want to see who steps up and is able to play."
People will game plan to stop him and he is going to have to get better at all those things.
- Jed Kennedy Central coach on Reggie Jennings
He also had an answer for the heat.
"We got misters (fans that spray water) and we got pretty good water girls," he said.
Being perhaps the best player on this year's team, his teammates look to Jennings for leadership, as he is the first junior in Kennedy's three years who was voted a team captain.
"He's a quiet leader. He's not a rah-rah, get you fired up guy," Kennedy said. "He's a guy that leads by going out there every day, working hard and doing what you ask him to do. I've been a believer in that your best players are your hardest workers and Reggie is one of our hardest workers."
Jennings had good things to say when asked what it's like to play for the emotional Kennedy.
"It's amazing. You are going to run through a wall for him. That's what you are going to do; run through a wall for him."
Jennings success last season will make him a marked man his time around.
"He's not going to be a surprise anymore," Kennedy said. "People are going to know who he is. He was the first junior in the state to be offered (UW). People will game plan to stop him and he is going to have to get better at all those things."
Knowing Reggie Jennings, he will be up to the challenge.
QUESTIONS FOR THE ATHLETES
- FAVORITE FOOD: Lasagna, any kind of pasta.
- FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP: Anything smooth and mellow. Billy Joel,Uptown Girl, Britney Spears. Oops I did it again.
- FAVORITE MOVIE: Forrest Gump
- FAVORITE TV SHOW: Sports, Comedy, anything with a good storyline.
- FAVORITE CLASS: English
- LEAST FAVORITE CLASS: Social Studies
- FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED: Hawaii (Maui)
- WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX: Sleep.
- FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY: Marquette (preps), Michigan-Ohio State(college).
- MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT: "Last year against Oshkosh North in the first round of the playoffs. It was raining all game. It was in the third quarter - it was a stalemate (0-0). I came off the edge, it was a screen and I tipped a pass late in the game and Nick Leszcynski caught it and ran it down to about the 20 and we scored after that" 13-0
- WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE: My next step is college.