For Cascade Christian junior Kiegan Schaan, it’s … well, ya know, whatever.
Others might carry more emotions in trying to fill the shoes of last year’s Class 3A state offensive player of the year for the defending football champion Challengers, but that’s just not Kiegan.
The 6-foot, 180-pounder is just a little more mellow than the rest, more interested in plotting his own course and unfazed by the path needed to get there.
Then again, we are also talking about his older brother Haiden.
“I don’t try to compare myself to him because he’s not me and I’m not him,” says Kiegan, 16. “I try to do my own thing.”
And truly, maybe have a quarterback that was related to the all-state standout is the best way to have the team move on these days.
“I almost think it’s better that it was his brother because he kind of sees the humanity of him,” says Cascade Christian head coach Jon Gettman. “He wasn’t this perfect guy but just a really good football player. He lived with him so he didn’t have him on a pedestal as this guy he has to replace, he just sees this as his job and what he has to do to help the team.”
Haiden completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,079 yards, 37 touchdowns and seven interceptions last year, and also ran for 774 yards and 16 touchdowns. These days he’s a freshman at George Fox University.
Kiegan hasn’t had the experience of quarterback being his natural position like his brother but has acclimated himself to the role quite nicely. After spending most of his time on offense at running back and wide receiver since officially taking up the sport in second grade, Kiegan has completed 48 of 80 passes for 541 yards, five touchdowns and one interception to go with 163 yards rushing for the reloading Challengers (2-1) entering Friday’s game at Pleasant Hill.
In last week’s 52-20 rout of Harrisburg, Kiegan passed for four touchdowns and ran one of his two interceptions as a free safety back for a score.
“I think he’s done a great job,” says Gettman. “He’s different from his brother in just his personality and how he approaches the game and things of that nature. He asks a lot of questions on why we do things and the way we do them. He’s kind of a perfectionist and when things don’t go his way he can get stuck on those things but he’s really progressed from where he was Week 1 with a lot of confidence.”
What has helped is Kiegan’s ability to work behind a veteran offensive line, led by senior center Logan Flenner (6-0, 295). Flanking Flenner to the right are junior guard Gabe Pierson (5-9, 210) and senior tackle Cody Miller (6-3, 230), and to the left by senior guard Spencer Weeks (6-0, 230) and senior tackle Cole Ferguson (5-10, 175).
“They’ve definitely been doing it for a while and have a lot of experience,” says Kiegan of his frontline protection. “It makes life easier for me. It gives me time to make the right reads.”
Knowing the offense wasn’t as much of an adjustment to Kiegan as simply having to throw the football these days. He spent a bulk of the summer working with his brother on his form and release and working to get the football out quickly to the right targets.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Kiegan says of his transition behind center. “It’s been a lot of work learning the reads, learning the routes and the timing of the balls, but it’s a lot of fun.”
And, really, not as much pressure as some might think
“Honestly I wouldn’t say there’s pressure because we’re a whole new team,” he says, “so it’s a new outlook and stuff for us.”
Still, there remains a natural tendency to compare the brothers, although Gettman says there’s really not a lot that is comparable beyond the immense athleticism and football savvy for each.
“I’d say there are definitely more differences in them than similarities, just in personality,” says the coach. “Kiegan is pretty serious most of the time whereas Haiden is a jokester, smiling and always laughing. Kiegan’s running style is more patient whereas Haiden just kind of burst through and made plays on his own.”
It took a conversation after Cascade Christian’s opening 28-0 win at Phoenix that truly allowed Gettman to consider the differences in approach. While Haiden was eager to push the envelope and throw downfield regardless of the potential pitfalls from his sophomore year on at Cascade, Kiegan’s mindset is more about ball control and sustaining drives these days.
“We’re leaving the game at Phoenix and I was thinking about opportunities he could’ve thrown here or there,” says Gettman, “but talking to him I came to the realization he’s going to be the guy that’s going to take care of the ball and not willing to try and thread the needle just to see if he can.”
Not that Kiegan doesn’t want to dial up the downfield attempts, he’s just more realistic about his status as a first-year QB and wants to take the right steps in order to get to the level of his older brother.
“I do (want to equal what he did) but at the same time I understand that I probably won’t get there this year, at least,” says Kiegan. “So I just need to focus on what I can do and I can accomplish and not strive to be someone else.”
“It’s my first year doing this so I’m just kind of chilling, trying to learn and get better every day,” he adds.
That means reliance on a stout defense, where Kiegan acts as the signal-caller on the backline, and a willingness to rely upon senior running back Luke Smith (37 carries, 218 yards, four TDs) and receivers John Fralich (17 catches, 201 yards, two TDs) and Kristian Fralich (12 catches, 155 yards, two TDs) to move the chains.
“I’m definitely getting more comfortable sitting in the pocket and throwing the ball,” says Kiegan, “but I’m just looking to make the right reads and get the ball to guys who can make plays.”
Thus far, that plan has worked out just fine for the Challengers, who are down to only 36 players from 50 a year ago but are a tight-knit group.
“Every day we just come out and try to execute and compete and get better,” adds Kiegan, “so we’ll just see week by week how we do.”