Keonte Lucas’ accolades run long.
Go down the list and things like multiple Pennsylvania all-state teams, division MVP, scholar athlete appear as if merely checked off one by one. And it is not hard to see why.
As the senior quarterback for Milton Hershey School - a school founded by the famed confectioner and located 10 minutes from Hershey Park - Lucas rushed for 1,500 yards, passed for another 958 and accounted for 30 total touchdowns (17 rushing, 13 passing) to top a three-year high school career that saw him rack up 6,690 total yards and 74 scores.
And this fall, the quarterback that was able to make plays with both his feet and his arm will be looking to bring that same dynamic playmaking ability to Central Connecticut State.
“CCSU filled out all the guidelines,” Lucas said.
With scholarship offers from St. Francis University (Pa), Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Millersville University of Pennsylvania, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and Mercyhurst University (Pa) in addition to CCSU and interest from other schools such as the U.S. Naval Academy, James Madison, Fordham and Bucknell, CCSU was Lucas’ first visit and right away knew it was the school he wanted to play his college football at.
“When I first went there the last spring - I did a couple of junior days before that - the atmosphere was great,” Lucas said. “I liked the coaching staff. They were definitely the coolest staff I met throughout the process. The big thing was being able to contribute and being there, I have a chance to contribute early.”
Once he arrives on campus, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Lucas will make the switch to running back - a position he says is the more natural fit.
Lucas’ high school games are filled with plenty of big moments that showcase what he could bring to a team that rushed for just 1,005 yards and 3.0 yards per carry in 2016. Perhaps none showed the potential he could bring to the collegiate level more so than a run against Milton Hershey’s rival Hershey High School in what is known as the annual Cocoa Bean Game.
“He had a 70-yard run in that game,” his high school coach Jeff Boger said. “It was one of those runs that should have been on ESPN. It’s one that he’s going to get tackled three or four times and it goes to show you the type of runner he is.”
Ask Lucas about it and he will describe it in a way that seems far from the impressive run it was, calmly breaking down the play moment by moment.
With the score tied 7-7 with 5:13 left in the first half, Lucas took the snap from shotgun seven-yards in the backfield. Getting a little depth and rolling out to his left, Lucas took off on a designed run.
After avoiding the arm tackle of a defensive end near the line of scrimmage, the signal caller cut back to break another defender’s ankles at the 40. Looking like he would be taken down at Hershey’s 47, Lucas simply shrugged off another tackle before cutting back to avoid a fourth at the 40. Now running down the sideline, and 30 yards from the goal line, Lucas once again appeared to be caught by a defender, proceeding to stiff arm him to the ground, cut back and stroll into the end zone.
He covered the contested 70 yards in 18 seconds.
“I remember feeling like the game should not have been as close as it was and I remember saying ‘if I get a play called for me, I’m going to do something,’” Lucas recalls. “I usually don’t show a whole bunch of emotion. I usually hand the ball to the ref or put the ball down, but I was excited after that one.”
The rout was on from there and Milton Hershey went on to win 46-7. During his three years as a starter for the Spartans, Lucas compiled a 23-11 record.
When he arrives at CCSU, it will also be sort of homecoming for Lucas. A native of East Hartford, Lucas first found out about Milton Hershey after his mother heard about it from an alumnus. Ask him and he remembers the first day he arrived on the school’s campus - January 28, 2013 during the middle of his eighth-grade year.
“At first I wasn’t really interested [in going], but I decided to give it a try,” Lucas said. “It was definitely a big transition. After I dropped my stuff at my room, I went to the rec room and sat by myself. It probably took about two weeks to start talking to people and I enjoyed talking to people. The people here are great.”
Basketball was the first sport he played for Milton Hershey having enrolled in the middle of the school year, but football has always been his favorite. When he went to training camp with the team his sophomore year, the coaching staff knew it had a playmaker and needed to have the ball in his hands as much as possible.
“When we took him to team camp we decided to try him out at quarterback,” Boger said. “The quarterback we had had just graduated the year before. We had a quarterback coming back and our offensive coordinator saw [Lucas] and said ‘this guy is going to be doing the things we want’ and it went from there. We knew things were going to happen. He opens up things for his teammates.”
With his high school football career now at a close and a chance to reflect on the long list of accolades in tow, Lucas looks back somewhat modestly on what he was able to accomplish, while also knowing a new game starts in the fall.
“I can’t necessarily say it’s a surprise,” Lucas said. “I work hard on the football field. But when you get to college you have to start all over.”
And as CCSU hopes to gain one playmaker, Milton Hershey will lose one.
“Every year, you have to replace seniors,” Boger said. “To have the same quarterback for three years, it’s going to be hard to replace. The guy behind him saw those things that he did. But he’s a totally different player than Keonte. He’s going to be missed. Having more than 6,600 total yards and 70 touchdowns in three years is hard to replace. But I know the teams in our division are going to be glad he’s gone.”
When all is said and done, CCSU soon hopes its opponents will be too.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach