Cesarz key performer for Comets
Ethan Cesarz has room to grow physically and in his knowledge of the game, sobering thoughts for opposing football coaches in the Southern Lakes Conference.
The Delavan-Darien High School standout measures 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, and he started his junior season Friday night when the Comets hosted East Troy in a nonconference contest.
The excitement is obvious in second-year DDHS coach Bret St. Arnauld's voice when talking about No. 18, who was selected to the league's first team at tight end and the second team at linebacker last fall.
“He's an athlete with a big, strong body who is a physical receiver and great playing in space,” St. Arnauld said. “When it's him and a defender, even with a small crease, I like our odds of winning those match-ups. There aren't a lot of guys with that combination of size, athleticism and speed.”
Cesarz caught 25 passes for 550 yards (22.0 average) with six touchdown catches with Jesse Collins chucking the pigskin last year, making the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-Region team and earning All-State honorable mention status on offense.
Cesarz said playing tight end is the best of both worlds.
“It's great because if I'm inside I'm involved in every running play as a blocker, and I love lining up outside as a receiver and being a threat,” said Cesarz, who has four brothers and a sister, Alana, who will be playing professional basketball in Portugal this coming season. “My strength definitely is going one-on-one with a safety or linebacker vertically.”
Still, coach and player know that Cesarz needs to polish up a few things.
“Ethan runs good routes, but he still needs to improve in that area,” St. Arnauld said. “He matches up well on the line, but one weakness is that he needs to be better at getting off the ball, especially when somebody gets their hands on him.”
Cesarz agreed he has work to do as the Comets prepare for another tough SLC slate.
“I definitely need to improve holding my blocks … I can make contact, but I need to hold them longer for our backs to run through (the holes),” Cesarz said.
He also knows he needs to takes steps on defense, but St. Arnauld and his star pupil are confident that will happen with experience and repetition because Cesarz will be transitioning from linebacker to end.
“Ethan's strength at linebacker was moving laterally and getting to the ball carrier, and he had great instincts,” St. Arnauld said. “But he didn't always stick to his assignments, and that hurt us. Part of it was inexperience, but he always was attempting to make the play and he needed to understand that he must play his position and not fill the roles of all 11 guys on defense.
“But we feel he's best suited moving to defensive end,” St. Arnauld said. “I believe he can be a force and a difference maker. He has the size and power to eat up double teams and has the athleticism to beat pulling guards, and he'll be rushing the passer. It will be tough for offensive linemen to get on him, so he'll be tough to block.”
Cesarz said he would take advantage of his downhill approach and playmaking abilities regardless of his switch in positions.
“Moving to end is what's best for the team and to help us win,” he said. “I have the athleticism for the outside and strength to deal with big linemen. I still want to play downhill all the time and lead this defense.”
DDHS will need all of the production that Cesarz can give them, because St. Arnauld said the Comets are inexperienced in most areas, although numbers are up to 84 throughout the program, an increase of 13 athletes.
Delavan-Darien has missed the WIAA playoffs the last three years after qualifying three of the four previous seasons, including last year's 4-5 overall finish under St. Arnauld, an honorable mention All-State running back selection at Niagara in 2004.
“The numbers are a step in the right direction, but we have very little experience,” St. Arnauld said. “Jake (Benzing) was an all-conference wide receiver, but he'll be our quarterback this year. We have athleticism at the skill positions, but can the line give us time to throw? Last year with Jesse, he had a herniated disk (in his back), so we passed a lot more. But we would prefer to be 60-40 (percent) or even 70-30 running.”
“Defensively, we have only one senior in the secondary, one returning starter at linebacker and the line is all new,” he added.
St. Arnauld knows it will take time to develop, but he hopes that the team continues to grow and stay mentally tough after losing several close outings in 2014.
“We know we don't have the size that many of the other teams do, so we need to use our athleticism and speed,” he said. “We didn't know how to win those tight ballgames … we need to learn that mind-set of how to finish. When we get knocked down, we have to get back up. That's who we want to be as a program.”
And he's got somebody like Cesarz to lead the way.
“He's what, 6-2 and 215, and he's only 16 … he's not a man yet,” St. Arnauld said. “He has the potential to be something special.”
Cesarz wants the team to believe in itself, and he said the Comets have shown positive signs in practices.
“I think the team is coming together well,” he said. “We're pretty deep at the skill positions. We don't have anybody returning on the offensive line, but they're coming together. On defense, everybody's playing aggressively and hard. I know there's nobody who doesn't want to play downhill and make plays.”