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'Finally my year': Neenah Rockets senior prepares for big showdown game at new stadium

Posted at 10:31 PM, Aug 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-14 23:31:54-04

NEENAH (NBC 26) — Thursday night is set to hold a big match-up at the start of the high school football season, and it's a battle between the Neenah Rockets and the De Pere Redbirds.

As freshmen through senior students run drills on the fresh turf at brand new Neenah Rocket stadium, the stands are empty. But that won't be the case in 48 hours.

“I'm kind of the first to play high school football. In like, my immediate family,” said Luke Keller.

Keller is a senior this year, wearing number 83, and he's been playing tackle football since he was in third grade.

“It's crazy to think about, it’s the last time maybe, potentially,” Keller said.

He's played all kinds of positions, but this year he is a playing fullback and tight end.

He said he's always put his whole heart into the game, but it's hitting him that this year is different.

“When you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior on JV or varsity, you're kind of playing and like, working for the seniors, to make it like the best season they can have, and then it’s finally my year,” Keller said.

The upcoming game would have been a big one regardless of the context.

“It's kind of like a baseline or like, setting the bar for what we want this season,” said Keller.

But with fans like the Rockets have, Keller and his team want to earn the kinds of cheers they've gotten in years past.

“It's electric," he said. "The last playoff game, like, we couldn't hear the snap count on some of the plays because of — the fans were just going nuts and it was filled, packed. People were on the fence, lines, there weren't enough seats. It was pretty crazy.”

Keller said that fans can expect to see a good fight come game night.

“We're gonna go out swinging. And then we're just gonna – from the first snap – 100%, and then see what De Pere has.”

It's anyone's guess who will win at this point, but Keller has a prediction.

“I think we're gonna win,” he said. "We have confidence in ourselves. Good game plan, defense is looking solid. And yeah, I think we're just gonna be more physical than them and come out on top."

Program Note: The De Pere - Neenah game will be the first Sports Showdown game of the season, and will be broadcast on TV 32.