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Following an All-American brother

More news about: UW-Platteville
When the game gets tight, UW-Platteville quarterback Tom Kelly remains nice and loose.
UW-Platteville athletics photo

It’s likely many Division III football fans that follow the WIAC closely had high expectations for Tom Kelly when he assumed the starting quarterback role at UW-Platteville.

Those opinions would have been based largely on the performance of his older brother, John Kelly, who helped the Pioneers make their first Division III playoff appearance in 2013 and earn third-team All-America recognition.

While it isn’t necessarily fair to judge the younger Kelly based on his brother’s accolades, Tom Kelly didn’t shy away from those comparisons. Rather he embraced the opportunity to follow his sibling, and after backing up Bryce Corrigan for a season, has built an impressive resume of his own as the Pioneers’ signal-caller.

“I’ve been following John all my life. He’s my brother, I love him and I just love hanging out with him,” Kelly said. “I thought about different schools, but I really set my sights on Platteville when I heard about it, and it turned out to be a great decision.”

While Kelly talks with his older brother almost every day, they rarely chat football now. However, when the Kellys were both on campus, John went out of his way to help Tom improve his game.

“He really set the pace for me. I really got to learn a lot from what he did – what he did right and what he did wrong,” Kelly said. “I really learned from John because he actually taught me up while I was here. Even at home during the summer, he’d always teach me up a little play – what plays he was looking at, stuff like that.”

UW-Platteville coach Mike Emendorfer pointed out that his team actually has a few players following in their siblings’ footsteps. Jordan Zilbar, whose brother Jacob was a first-team All-American linebacker, and Luke Johnson, whose brother Alex also played linebacker, are both on this year’s roster along with Kelly.

“It’s a good sign for our program when we have younger players continue to come play for us after their older brother has played,” the coach said.

Despite that, Emendorfer admitted he was a little nervous when John Kelly approached him to say his younger brother was interested in playing for UW-P.

“I thought, well I had a great relationship with John and what if Tom doesn’t work out as well,” he explained. “But obviously it has.”

Emendorfer has seen a lot similar qualities in the two players. Both players had room to improve as true freshmen, but both worked hard and each of them kept their composure when under pressure.

They both also had a desire to play hockey for UW-Platteville’s club team after the football season concluded.

“There’s probably very few coaches out there that’s going to allow their starting quarterbacks to play hockey in the offseason. But I thought that was neat that they were both very tough-minded, but also had other interests,” Emendorfer said.

Now the leader of the offense, Tom Kelly has thrived as Platteville’s quarterback. He said he has a better grasp of the offense’s concepts now, which has improved his game. Additionally his arm-strength and accuracy have become better – which is required for the type of throws the coaching staff asks its QBs to make.

Plus his composure has remained steady.

“When we get into tight situations, we run no-huddle. The intensity is up, receivers are yelling and screaming, coaches are trying to get us all up to the line of scrimmage. It’s a very up-tempo type of offense, and Tom is always under composure,” Emendorfer said. “You wouldn’t know if he threw a 99-yard touchdown pass, or if he just threw an interception for a touchdown. He is ready for the next play.

“He’s making a lot of good decisions throwing the football,” the coach added.

Kelly said the best decision he can make is to get the ball to his wide receivers and running backs. He said those players are able to use their athleticism to make plays.

“I’m really close with all my receivers. So it’s really nice to get out there and when they’re seeing something else that I’m not seeing, they’ll definitely communicate with me,” Kelly said. “Dan Arnold is the easiest target to throw to – just got to get it around his radius, and he’ll definitely catch the ball. Giving Quinn (Buschbacher) space, he’ll just run all over the place – really quick guy.

“So it’s really key to get these guys the ball in the right scenarios, so they can get into the end zone.”

That strategy has helped the Pioneers get off to a 2-0 start, shutting out George Fox in Week 1 and topping a scholarship program in St. Francis (Ill.) the following week.

“I think we’ve started off pretty well. There’s definitely a lot of things to improve on,” Kelly said. “We haven’t reached our full potential as an offense yet, so that’s very bad and very good at the same time.”

“I think when you come in with 10 returning starters on offense, everyone is anticipating a lot of fireworks,” Emendorfer added. “We’re not satisfied. Let’s put it that way. We know we have some bigger challenges in front of us and we’ve got to improve on decision making, catching and all those type of things.”

Adding it takes a complete team to win championships, and giving the defense a nod for playing “lights out,” Emendorfer said the team’s goal this year is to win the WIAC championship.

“If you win the conference championship in our league, you’re going to be in the top-five in the nation,” the coach said. “Now, we’re not saying we’re going to do that. We’re just saying that’s our goal, but that should be River Falls and Stout’s goal as well and everyone in our conference.

“If win the conference, you have a chance to do a lot in the playoffs.”

However the season ends, Emendorfer will enjoy the time that Kelly plays under center. He said he’ll remember that both John and Tom Kelly were a large part of many victories for this program. The reason he’ll cherish those wins is very simple.

“There’s no more Kellys left that Mrs. Kelly has told me about,” Emendorfer said.

Linfield opens victorious, turns attention to UMHB

Sam Riddle completed 30-of-38 passes for 391 yards and five touchdowns to carry Linfield past Chapman, 48-14.

Zach Kuzens caught four passes for a team-high 94 yards while Johnny Carroll hauled a team-leading seven passes for 52 yards and two scores. In total, nine different Wildcats caught passes.

“I was really pleased with the offensive production,” Linfield coach Joe Smith said in a school news release. “It was a well-balanced attack. The offensive line did the job today.”

The Wildcats will be looking for a similar performance from Riddle and company when they travel to Belton, Texas, to take on No. 4 Mary-Hardin Baylor in a rematch of a 2015 quarterfinal.

Number of the week

49: The number of combined points scored by Puget Sound and Occidental in the fourth quarter Saturday. The wild finish featured seven touchdowns in the final 15 minutes – including a 93-yard touchdown reception by the Loggers’ Austin Wagner followed by a 73-yard scoring catch by Chris Rom-Toribio. Hans Fortune threw his career-high seventh touchdown pass of the game with 5:35 to play to give Puget Sound a 49-42 victory. The quarterback finished the game with a school record 601 yards of total offense.

The rest of the West

Central scored touchdowns on six consecutive possessions in the second half to best Augustana, 45-17. Riley Gray three two touchdowns and ran for another to pace the Dutch offense. … The three-headed attach of Dan Rinquist, Jason Montonye and Chad Johnson carried Concordia-Moorhead to a 25-7 win over UW-Eau Claire. Rinquist and Montonye ran for 106 and 92 yards respectively. Montonye scored once and Johnson added two touchdown runs. … Clayton Douvier and Drew Shipley combined to make 30 tackles for the Minnesota-Morris defense. Shipley had 5.5 tackles for a loss, including 2.5 sacks while Douvier chipped in two sacks and another TFL as the Cougars beat Greenville, 33-28. … Kyle Larson threw five touchdown passes to lead UW-Stevens Point to a 50-13 win over Albion. Larson finished the game, 20-of-32 for 331 yards. … Drew Jensen’s 28-yard field goal with a 1:10 to play, lifted Simpson over Illinois College, 25-23. Defensively, the Storm recorded five sacks and recovered three fumbles. … Kevin Krohn returned a blocked punt and Casey Decker returned an interception for touchdowns on consecutive drives to help Gustavus Adolphus beat UW-River Falls, 24-21. … UW-Whitewater’s running game looked strong in a 59-13 win over Belhaven. Drew Patterson ran for 227 yards and three touchdowns, and Jarrod Ware added 169 yards and a score. … Dante Joseph intercepted Jack Goldstein’s 66th pass of the game in the second overtime, and six plays later Christian Moore plunged into the end zone from 1-yard out to give Luther an exciting 46-40 win at St. Olaf. Moore finished the game with 185 rushing yards and three touchdowns. … Bret Robertson did a little bit of everything for the Westminster (Mo.) defense, registering 15 tackles – including a sack and two tackles for a loss, forcing a fumble and intercepting a pass in a 24-7 win at Iowa Wesleyan. … Pacific scored 24 second-quarter points, but Dubuque rallied in the second half to win 28-24. Najee Toomer caught eight passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning snag with 1:47 to play. … Jackson Erdmann completed 17-of-20 passes for 259 yards and five scores to lead St. John’s to a 33-point halftime lead and a 40-17 win at Buena Vista. … Northwestern (Minn.) recorded its second consecutive shutout, blanking Crown 21-0. Andrew Smith helped keep the Storm off the board by intercepting two passes. … Trey Reynolds threw three touchdown passes to lead Claremont-Mudd-Scripps to its season-opening win over Lewis and Clark, 35-3. … Michael Alada intercepted two passes, returning one 23 yards for a touchdown, in St. Thomas’ 57-17 in over UW-Stout. … Coe averaged 7.1 yards per play, racking up 633 total yards of offense in a 63-6 win at Cornell. Gavin Glenn threw three touchdown passes to lead the way. … LeAnthony Reasnover gained 130 yards rushing and a touchdown on 20 carries to power Eureka past Martin Luther, 38-7. … Hamline’s Mitchell Maday terrorized the Macalester offense, registering 4.5 sacks and forcing two fumbles in the Pipers’ 21-7 win to retain the Paint Bucket. … Whitworth amassed 605 total yards of offense in a 60-0 win at Whittier. Ian Kolste and Jonah Koski combined to complete 25 passes for 411 yards and four touchdowns threw the air. … UW-La Crosse got 105 rushing yards and two first quarter touchdowns from Tyler Jenkins in a 65-14 win over Ripon. … Aaron Olson caught six passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns as St. Scholastica defeated MacMurray, 37-28. … Dallan Rodriguez connected on a 29-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter and Jon Schaub threw two touchdown passes as Pacific Lutheran beat Cal Lutheran, 17-14.

Rank ’em

Six teams from the West Region are ranked in this week’s Top 25 poll.

UW-Whitewater, Linfield and St. Thomas are ranked Nos. 2, 3 and 4, respectively. The Warhawks received four first place votes, Linfield collected three and the Tommies garnered two.

UW-Oshkosh, St. John’s and UW-Platteville are ranked in the top-10, checking in at Nos. 6, 9 and 10, respectively.

Central (30), Whitworth (16), Dubuque (16), Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (15), Wartburg (13) and UW-Stevens Point (3) all received votes in this week’s poll.

Be heard

Do you have a story idea for the Around the West column? Contact me about approaching milestones, broken records, breakout players or any other storylines in the Region. Or just drop me a note to let me know what you think of the column. All ideas and feedback are welcome. Email me at josh.smith@d3sports.com or follow me on Twitter @By_Josh_Smith.

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Josh Smith has covered Division III sports for more than five years. He writes for multiple publications, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and lives in southern Wisconsin near UW-Whitewater, where he graduated with a degree in print journalism.

2011-12 columns: Jason Galleske
2010: Tim Walsh
2003-09: Adam Johnson
1999-2000: Don Stoner 

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