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Homestead's Keel heading to WFCA Hall of Fame

Honor overdue say former assistants and players

Sept. 20, 2011

When you watch coaches Jake Davis at Germantown, Drake Zortman at Shorewood/Messmer and Brian Sommers of University School work with their football teams, you're seeing a little bit of the magic that has made Dave Keel at Homestead such a success.

All either served on his staff or, in the instance of Davis, played for Keel, and you get the sense that the trio are hoping that some of his aura has rubbed off on them and their respective programs.

"I love Dave," said Sommers, who served on Homestead's staff for two years some seasons ago. "The best thing that he teaches is how to prepare a team at a higher level of detail than anyone you've seen before.

"… He knows how to manage a staff, he lets his guys (assistants) coach and insists that they speak up when it's needed.

"Just a lot of things, practice set-ups, schedules, etc. We've all learned from him, but Drake, Jake and I have just tweaked it a little and put our own little spins on it.

"But it all comes from Dave."

All three are in their first years at their new assignments and all are more than pleased that Keel is going to be inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame on March 31.

Honored to go in with colleague

And Keel, who will likely go over the 200 career wins mark this season, and who has three state championships under his belt (1999, 2006 and 2008) and whose program has had a stranglehold on the North Shore Conference title since 2001, is adopting an "Aw shucks, all this for me?" type of attitude toward the event.

"It's such a tremendous thing," he said. "A really nice honor. What I'm really excited about is that (long-time area coach) Jim Chossek is also going in with me after 30 years of work."

Chossek helped Homestead's state title runs of a few years ago with a fine effort as a line coach.

Zortman, who worked for Keel and Homestead until just a few years ago, laughs and sees a little hypocrisy in the timing of the induction.

"I sent him a message saying 'What the heck are you still coaching for,' " Zortman chuckled, "because a few years ago he told us that he wouldn't go in (to the Hall) until he was done (retired)."

Well, if you want to split hairs, Keel did retire after 33 years as a math teacher at Homestead last year, though he will keep his afternoon jobs of football and girls softball coach. Given that, he probably won't get much time to indulge in his stated hobbies of flying and reading too much.

"Dave really deserves this," Zortman said. "He's had such a good run at Homestead these past 20 years. I really mean this because he's been such a good friend and mentor."

Keel, who is a past president of WFCA, will go in as one of 21 inductees during this current set of ceremonies to be held at the Marriott West in Madison.

He likes to joke about how recently retired rival Phil Datka of Germantown gave him his start as a freshmen coach where he promptly posted a losing record. "I think he (Datka) fired me on the spot," laughed Keel in an oft-repeated but never old story.

Homestead's winning tradition

Now he hasn't had a season where he's had fewer than 10 wins since 2000.

Davis played a tough-as-nails center for Keel from 1999-2001, fighting through a broken thumb in the 1999 state title win over Marshfield and again battling back from a shoulder injuries midway through the 2001 state semifinal campaign.

He remains good friends with Keel's son, Jason Quale, whom he played football with on the 1999 and 2000 teams and notes that his first meeting with his old boss on Oct. 13 at Germantown is going to be an interesting one.

"Good for him, good for him," said Davis of Keel. "I've definitely seen both sides of this as a player and a coach. We all really respect what he's done and like the fact that they (WFCA) finally got this (induction) done."

And of that broken thumb of Davis' in that title game with Marshfield, how did Coach Keel react to it?

"I never told him about it (during the game)," he said. "I pointed it out to Andy Rennicke (the Homestead quarterback) and he just shot back 'What the heck do you want me to do about it?'

"Coach knew that I was hurt and asked if I could go and I said 'Yes, I can' and the rest is history."

A lot of history, indeed, for a man still intent on making some more.

"It's clear that he still enjoys it," Davis said.

And that's why he has set no timetable for departure, no date certain for his coaching retirement. He's just going to continue to do what he's always done, the best he can.

"Take it one game, one year at a time and hope things work out," he said. "You just try to get by every week. I've had a lot of really great kids and a pretty good staff. Sometimes this stuff just all works out."

In his case, more often than not.

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