Four years ago, Keenen Young was a freshman receiver walking off the turf at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
Even though he had nine catches for 133 yards that day, his Althoff Crusaders suffered a bitter 14-7 defeat to Mercer County in the Class 2A state championship game.
“I just remember it being really cold and I remember a lot of mistakes,” said Young, who says he has instant recall of nearly everything that happened on that painful day. “I also remember a lot of good things that we did — but also coming out with a loss instead of a ‘W’ we should have had. I felt real bad for my seniors that year.”
Now a senior himself, Young made good on a promise to head coach Ken Turner that the Crusaders would get another shot at a state football title. Althoff (13-0) plays Chicago Phillips (13-0) in the Class 4A state championship game at 7 p.m. Friday in DeKalb.
“I promised him right after the game that we would make it back — and here we are,” Young said.
I promised him right after the game that we would make it back — and here we are.
Althoff’s Keenen Young on a prediction he made to his coach as a freshman
“He told me back then that we were going to get back to state before he left,” Turner said. “It’s his senior year and we’re on our way Friday night. It will be the last game but if we can pull it off what a great way for him to leave.”
A varsity starter since midway through his freshman year, the 6-foot-2, 223-pound Young has one more game to add to one of the top receiving careers in metro-east history.
The Jackson State recruit ranks fifth all-time in the state in career receptions (226) and receiving yards (3,158) and eighth all-time in receiving touchdowns (39), according to Illinois High School Association records.
The Illinois all-time leader in career receptions is Nic Weishar from Chicago Marist with 237 from 2010-13.
When a ball is in the air anywhere in his vicinity, Young believes it is his and his alone.
He makes tough catches look easy and acrobatic catches look routine.
His 73 catches for 1,105 yards and 17 TDs make this the most productive season of his career, but Young also had 70 catches for 991 yards and 11 TDs as a sophomore.
Young’s signature game this season was a 13-catch, 233-yard explosion against Jefferson City (Mo.) Helias that included a pair of TD receptions. The senior has four games with 100 or more yards in receiving in 2015.
He basically told me he was going to show me when he got here. When I saw him on the field he was as good as advertised. He just took off.
Althoff coach Ken Turner
Turner joked about how each of the Althoff receivers believe they are the best on the field. Young and junior C.J. Coldon (61 catches, 1,316 yards, 16 TDs) are the first 1,000-yard receivers in Althoff history, while junior Jordan Goodwin (35 catches, 448 yards, three TDs) and senior Tarkus Ferguson (31 catches, 439 yards, two TDs) are also solid.
All four were starters on Althoff’s basketball team that finished second at the Class 3A state tournament last spring.
“They all feel like they’re No 1,” Turner said, not referring to Young’s jersey number. “If you put them all on a different teams, they’re No. 1 receivers and other schools would be happy to have them.”
Turner recalled seeing Young dominate underclass games as a freshman, but waited a while before promoting him to full-time varsity status.
The final convincer was seeing Young score three TDs against Triad in a varsity game where he racked up 100 yards on only three catches.
“I told him in the lunch room room that day he was starting and told him I needed a couple of touchdowns to help us win that game,” Turner said. “It was obvious he had the physical tools and was like a man amongst boys out there in underclass sports. I probably should have pulled him up two or three weeks before I did it.
“He ended up proving himself and his career started there.”
Young’s reputation was more of a basketball player before arriving at Althoff, but he insists he always liked football better because there was more physical play and contact.
“I’d heard everything about him on the court and he was telling me how good he was in football, too,” Turner said. “He basically told me he was going to show me when he got here. When I saw him on the field he was as good as advertised.
“He just took off.”
By the Numbers
Keenen Young’s statistics rank him among the best in IHSA football.
- 2015: 73 catches, 1,105 yards, 17 TDs
- 2014: 56 catches, 651 yards, eight TDs
- 2013: 70 catches, 991 yards, 11 TDs
- 2012: 27 catches, 411 yards, three TDs