There was a sense of envy in Crespi wide receiver Eric Kieling's voice when he talked about Granada Hills High--the top passing team among Valley City Section schools--and how successful he would be if teamed with quarterback Jeremy Leach.
"I think I'd be the leading wide receiver in the area," he said. "I can catch everything thrown to me. If I went to Granada Hills, I could catch every pass Leach threw to me."
Kieling has caught almost every pass thrown to him at Crespi. He just doesn't get many.
The senior has 22 catches for 434 yards and 4 touchdowns in 8 games. But when he does catch a pass, he can turn it into a big play. Kieling is second among area receivers with an average of 19.7 yards a catch.
Normally, a player who is averaging almost 20 yards a catch would have his number called more often. But at Crespi the situation is not normal. The Celts have running back Russell White, which means that White gets the ball--and Kieling gets to block.
"I'm glad Russell is on the team because he does a lot," said Kieling, who is quick to point out that White's contributions could not be replaced by any number of passes. "I like to block for him. I like to see him run right by me."
But there is something else Kieling would like to see--passes thrown his way. "We can win passing. We could go to the air and be effective," he said.
Kieling hedges when talking about how often Crespi should pass. He acknowledges that with White and running back J. J. Lasley, Crespi has outstanding rushers. He's not asking to completely revamp the Celts' offensive scheme, he would just like a chance to prove his worth.
"I don't want to be cocky, but a lot of people don't think I'm that good because we don't pass that much," he said. "Defensive backs don't even pay attention to me sometimes."
Crespi Coach Bill Redell sympathizes with Kieling but defends his play selection by pointing out that Crespi is fifth among area Southern Section teams in passing yardage. But Crespi has gained that yardage on only a few passes--the Celts have attempted about 15 passes per game. Fifteen area teams have attempted more.
Redell also said that if they passed any more, it would appear that they were running up the score. Crespi has outscored its opponents, 346-93, and its average margin of victory is 31.6 points.
Redell has a story for any receiver who wants the ball more. It's about Lance Fauria, a former Celt, who was being recruited by the University of Washington.
An assistant from Washington was watching the film of a Crespi game when Fauria ran across the middle of the field, caught a pass and turned it into an apparent 60-yard play. The reception was nullified by a penalty, but the coach was so impressed by what he saw on that one play, he turned off the projector and offered a scholarship. "He uses that example a lot," Kieling said.
Redell said he is trying to prove quality is better than quantity. "A lot of these kids think that coaches have to study eight games' worth of film," he said, "but all they need to see is a few games."
Kieling, who was second on the team last season with 18 catches for 302 yards and 3 touchdowns, seems content with the explanation and he is resolved to do the best with what is thrown his way. "The first 20 catches will be the same as the second 20," he said. "If they like me the first 20 catches . . . well, you know what I mean. You're either good or you're not good."
The few times Kieling has caught the ball, he's been very good.
In Crespi's 44-0 victory over Taft this year, Kieling caught a 28-yard touchdown pass by leaping over a defender, catching the ball, then dragging one foot across the ground as he fell out of bounds.
"We don't throw much and when we do, I've got to catch every one thrown to me," he said.
And Kieling has--almost. In that same game against Taft, Kieling was alone along the left sideline, 10 yards behind the nearest defender but dropped the pass from quarterback Ron Redell.
"It was a play action pass and I was so wide open when Ronnie threw it, it seemed like I had five minutes," Kieling said. "But I turned around before the ball got there."
Senior quarterback Rob O'Byrne broke his right arm last week against Alemany, making Redell, a junior and Coach Redell's son, the full-time quarterback. Bill Redell said the ratio of runs to passes won't differ, however.
"There won't be any changes," said Redell, adding that it has nothing to do with lack of talent on Kieling's part. "He's outstanding. I knew he was good, but he turned out much better than I thought. He's a Division I prospect," Redell said.
Although Kieling--by his own admission--has average speed, he makes up for it with jumping ability. Kieling (6-2, 170 pounds) cleared 6-6 in the high jump last year and, when playing against smaller cornerbacks, has stopped for an underthrown ball and jumped over the defenders.
"That's my favorite pattern. I run up the right sideline, jump up and wait for it," he said.
Sometimes, however, the wait can be too long.