TURNER — Depending on what he does in Saturday’s state title game against Oceanside, Leavitt’s regional semifinal win over Cape Elizabeth earlier this month might be Will Keach’s signature performance.

The senior slot back and linebacker opened the game with a 52-yard touchdown run and moments later pulled down an interception at the line of scrimmage and returned it 35 yards for another score. In the second quarter, he caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from Noah Carpenter.

“Stud,” Carpenter said. “He’s a stud.”

Leavitt’s Will Keach runs through Oxford Hills’ Logan Spencer during the teams’ matchup in Turner in September. Brewster Burns photo

Led by Keach, the Hornets had 59 points by halftime.

“I remember talking to the refs before the Cape game, and they said something about No. 31, and I’m like, ‘Oh, you got to watch him, he can really do everything,’” Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway said. “And then I think he had the interception — he was on the line of scrimmage and picked the ball (while) like jumping up in the air — ran it back. You know, he caught one, he ran one, so he was a little bit everything that game.”

Or maybe Will Keach’s finest work was the game against Thornton Academy. He made a couple of long catches (70 and 61 yards) as Leavitt overcame a 15-point halftime deficit by scoring 29 unanswered points. He also caught a pass on the sideline on which he stopped, twisted his body and while falling out of bounds he somehow got a foot down inbounds.

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“He comes up huge in key moments of the game, like with that grab down in Thornton, probably the greatest grab I’ve ever seen in high school, even in college and stuff like that,” Carpenter said. “It was a key moment, too, because we were down, we were trying to put in a good drive, and he just saved the drive there.”

KEACH GONNA KEACH

There’s a saying around Turner, probably started by the commentators of Leavitt Area High School’s Buzz Media football game broadcasts: Will Keach doing Will Keach things.

“I don’t even know where it really started. They just started saying it on the broadcast, and then it kind of just stuck, I guess,” Keach said.

(He doesn’t mind it, by the way: “Yeah, I like it. I think it’s pretty funny,” Keach said.)

The saying probably was inspired by consistently seeing Will Keach do spectacular things in spectacular ways.

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“I like to think of myself as a playmaker. That’s what I try to do, I try to come up big when we need it,” Keach said.

Along with the games mentioned above, there has been a 75-yard punt return for a score and 38-yard touchdown catch against Lewiston; an 80-yard TD reception and two scoring runs, a 35-yarder and a 9-yarder, in the season opener against Fryeburg; touchdown catches of 38 and 35 yards and a 25-yard TD run in the regular season matchup with Cape Elizabeth.

And those are just some of his TDs. There have been big plays — both in length and importance — throughout the season.

For instance, the win over Oxford Hills in September. Keach had a 17-yard touchdown run that gave Leavitt a 14-0 lead, but he also returned a kick 40 yards after the Vikings scored to cut the deficit to 14-7 with 37 seconds left in the first half.

Keach’s return gave the Hornets good enough field position to try for another score, which led to a 29-yard touchdown catch by Aidan Turcotte with eight seconds remaining. Those seven points ended up being the difference in the Hornets’ 21-14 victory.

“The kick return to set that up was huge,” Hathaway said after that game. “…Because if we were back there, we wouldn’t have taken those shots. But when he got it up around midfield, we’re like, ‘All right, we got a couple of chunk plays we can throw at them, and maybe we get one in the end zone.’”

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The point is, Will Keach makes plays in every possible way — a long run up the middle or to the outside, a kick return, a short pass he turns into a big gain, or, his favorite, “A deep ball. I like going to get a deep ball.”

“I kind of just do what they asked me, and try to do it to my best abilities,” Keach said. “And they try to get me the ball where I can make it hurt. And that’s just our game plan.”

Keach also helps make big plays with his blocking.

“He’s just all-around a really good player. He’s probably one of our best perimeter blockers, too,” Hathaway said.

Hathaway adds that Keach’s playmaking isn’t limited to offense: “Big plays on defense, he tackles well, he runs to the ball. He’s in coverage.”

“I play the whip outside ‘backer, which is more of like a pass coverage outside ‘backer,” Keach said. “So I get to play the pass but I also get to play run, depending on my read.”

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Hathaway compares Keach’s position to a nickelback in college or pro football. Keach needs to be able to cover receivers, and he must be able to play near the line of scrimmage for the run game. He has to know how to play in both zone and man-to-man coverage.

“That’s a tough position in our defense, and he’s nailed it down well,” Hathaway said.

Keach’s defense will be important in the Class C state final Saturday (11 a.m., at Lewiston) against North champion Oceanside (10-0), which is the highest scoring team in Class C — the Mariners’ 456 points, including playoffs, is five points more than the Hornets have scored.

“We know they like to throw, throw quite a bit, but they can also hurt you in the run,” Keach said.

LONGTIME CONNECTION

While he likes defense, Keach said he enjoys playing offense the most because, “I like to score.”

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Hathaway and the Leavitt coaches use him all over the field on offense. He has lined up in the slot, as a wideout, at tailback, even at quarterback, which is where he used to play, a long time ago.

“We can take it way back to second grade: Noah was my center, and I was the quarterback,” Keach said. “And then as we grew older, probably like, fifth, sixth grade, I moved to slot and Noah moved to quarterback.”

Keach has been at slot, and Carpenter has been his quarterback, ever since. During that time, they’ve teamed up for a lot of big plays.

“We just have a connection that we’ve built over the years,” Keach said.

Now Keach and Carpenter are heading into the final game of their high school careers, during which they and their fellow seniors have only lost one game in three seasons (their freshman year was 2020, when football was 7-on-7 non-tackle football due to the coronavirus pandemic).

Carpenter will likely be the focus of Oceanside’s defense, but the Mariners also must be wary of Will Keach to do Will Keach things.

“He’s got good vision,” Hathway said, “so I think it doesn’t really matter where he is on the field. He just has real good instincts, and he sees the field so well that he’s able to do quite a bit.”

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