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Longhorns’ Colton Keene is the stopper

Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 12:36 pm

By J. Daniel Pearson
For the News-Gazette
When it comes to team sports like football, it’s not surprising that players from the best teams usually dominate individual awards and all-star teams.
But, sometimes, a young man’s performance is so good that it screams for recognition.  And that is why Harmony’s Colton Keene is an Osceola Gazette Co-Defensive Player of the Year for 2013 with Osceola High linebackers Riley Nicholson and Mikeice Adams.
The Longhorns, who recorded a 5-5 season and missed the playoffs, may have struggled a bit as a team, but Keene did not.  The senior middle linebacker recorded 131 total tackles (72 solo) to go with nine tackles-for-loss, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two quarterback sacks.
His season performance earned him a second straight all-conference nod and a spot in the Central Florida All-Star Game in December.
Surprisingly, when asked about his favorite moment of the season, Keene shrugs off any personal accomplishments.
“I think it was the second game of the year,” Keene said.  “Something didn’t seem right about the season. We had some pretty good players but nobody seemed to be on the same page.  But something happened at practice that week and it seemed like the entire attitude of the team changed overnight. We all started to work as a team and caring for each other.  I’d say that was my favorite moment of the season.”
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Coach Jerrad Butler thinks that Colton had a lot to do with that transformation.
“Colton is a leader on the field and in the locker room.  He is someone that everyone respects.  His work ethic is second to none and our team fed off of his energy all season,” Butler said.   “If you ever spend some time with this young man, you know that he has a burning desire to improve each day and be the best football player that he can be.  I believe that the level of dedication, work ethic, determination, and leadership he demonstrated are the kind traits you wished all your players had.”
When pressed, Keene will tell you his best game came against Osceola, a team that reached the state semifinals this year.
“Obviously, they are a great team and it’s always a fun challenge to go against the best.  I thought I played a pretty good game that night.”
Butler agrees.
“He was awesome that night and he really had a standout moment. Osceola was driving deep into our territory and the running back broke through for what appeared to be an easy score,” Butler said. “Colton comes flying out of nowhere, made the hit, forced and then recovered the fumble.  Regardless of the situation, his personal mission is to get to the football and inflict punishment.”
Harmony defensive coordinator Brian Lambert, a longtime OHS coach whose son, Pat, played linebacker for the Kowboys and then at the University of Cincinnati, said Keene would make the starting 11 at OHS.
“He would have been a two-year starter at Osceola. He’s tough, like (former St. Cloud linebacker) Marshall Smith; he has a nose for the ball like Pat. His stats speak for themselves,” Lambert said. “No player was more valuable to his team’s success than Colton.”
A three-year starter, Keene finished his career with 314 tackles, including 163 solos.   He had 30 tackles-for-loss, seven forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and two sacks. He also had two interceptions, one returned 70 yards for a touchdown.
He was selected to the Florida Athletic Coaches Association All Region team.
Keene, who competes on the the weightlifting team, hopes to play at the next level.
“I have talked to some schools and hopefully something will work out. It’s early in the process,” he said.
Playing college football is something Butler said should not be a problem.  “He is very talented and will make any football program he chooses to join better,” Butler says. “He’s a great player and a great kid and it’s been a privilege coaching him.”