In the fall of 2011 Linton won its first 13 high school football games, but by the time the Miners reached the semistate — where they lost 17-0 to eventual Class A runner-up Indianapolis Scecina — they had been scouted well.
“Last year a lot of teams would just drop back and play [pass] coverage,” coach Steve Weber said this week, and for an obvious reason: Miner quarterback Austin Karazsia was one of the most prolific passers in the state. “This year we want to make [our opponent] have to make a decision.”
Karazsia is still throwing the ball, and the Miners are unbeaten again as they go for their fifth Class A Sectional 40 championship in the past six seasons at 7 p.m. today against North Daviess. But the Cougars — and any other potential Linton foe — are already well aware that playing strictly pass defense is no longer the way to limit the Miner offense.
Koye Kaiser is one of the main reasons those decisions Weber talked about have to be made. He was never a secret weapon to his coaches and teammates, and has emerged this year with numbers as impressive in their own way as those of his quarterback.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior estimates he has around 1,200 yards rushing, more than 350 yards receiving and has also intercepted six passes defensively as the Miners’ free safety. He guesses he’s scored about 20 touchdowns this year, which would give him more than 40 scores the past two seasons.
“We had him in a spot [last season, when Kaiser was more of a wingback] where he was our second-best runner and our second-best receiver,” Weber explained. “He was kind of hidden, but we knew all along what we had.
“He’s done this for a couple of years now, and we made a commitment … we knew we had to have a running attack.”
“I feel I’ve been pretty productive for this offense [at running back],” said Kaiser, who doesn’t like to overstate things, “but it’s not only me. Our other running backs are very capable, and that opens up our passing attack and then our passing attack opens up our running game … and our line does a great job, the best in [Class] 1A, I believe. We’ve got a great quarterback and great wide receivers.
“We’re loaded with weapons,” he concluded, “and that sets us apart from some teams. You can’t teach speed, and the weight room helps a lot with that too.”
Add his returns — of both punts and kickoffs — and Kaiser’s all-purpose yardage must swell past the 2,000-yard mark. He gets to rest when the Miners are punting, kicking off or kicking extra points and field goals, but otherwise he’ll be on the field.
“In a spread offense, for us to throw the way we do, to have a 1,000-yard rusher is pretty good,” Weber noted. “And [Kaiser] also has to pass-protect, run screens and run routes.”
“I’ll do anything for the team that I can,” he said, “and anytime I can get the ball in my hands … I love that. Football is most fun when you’re getting the ball and scoring touchdowns — but the most fun is winning.”
Linton has been to the semistate five times in the past 15 seasons but still hasn’t played for a state championship.
“I think we’re having a great season,” Kaiser said this week, “and expectations are really high. For us to meet those expectations, we have to go to the state finals and win.
“Physically, I think we’ve got [what it takes to do that]. Mentally … we need to take it one game at a time.”
The one game tonight won’t be easy, just because the Miners are playing a team that plays football the same way they do. Nothing about the Miners’ 35-12 win over the Cougars in the regular season will carry over.
“[North Daviess is] aggressive; they’ll get after you,” Weber said this week. “They believe they’re the toughest team on the field, and they’re going to show you. And they’re one of the few teams that can match up with us in speed.”
Should this year’s offensive balance give the Miners the edge?
“We’re a more complete team [than we were a year ago],” Weber admitted. “Does that make us a better team? I don’t know yet.”