When he was a child, Kalif Townsel would follow his older cousin around. They were best of friends then, Townsel and Jason Moore, before the Townsel family moved to Virginia.
They came back two years ago, and now instead of following Moore through the days of childhood fun, Townsel hopes his cousin can lead him to bigger and better things … on the football field and in the classroom.
He is off to a great start.
In a 25-24 season-opening win over Lutheran East, Townsel, a 5-foot-9, 220-pound fullback/linebacker, carried the ball 16 times for 87 yards and a touchdown, caught four passes for 99 yards and another touchdown on offense. Defensively, he recorded 21 tackles.
Last week, in a 28-27 win over Vermilion, Townsel carried the ball 27 times for 153 yards and a touchdown while seeing limited action on defense.
Moore, Oberlin’s starting quarterback, is a 6-4 senior with a strong arm and an even stronger head on his shoulders. He is being looked at by numerous Division I football programs, including most Mid-American Conference schools. Moore is proud of his “little cousin,” talking about how they have been tight their entire lives.
Though they are cousins and friends, Townsel says Moore means a lot more than that to him.
“He’s like a role model to me even though we play on the same team and do the same things,” Townsel said. “I see he’s keeping his head in the books and things are happening for him, so I’m trying the same thing and working to make sure my grades get better.”
The duo spent a lot of time together this summer, working out in the Oberlin High School weight room when they had any free time away from their busy baseball schedules. The physical advantages have been obvious, but Phoenix coach Fred Howery thinks the time together has had other benefits as well … especially for Townsel.
“This offseason he stepped up to the plate all the way around,” Howery said. “He decided he wanted to have a breakout season and worked hard for it. He’s also become a tremendous leader, out here pulling the younger kids up and helping them with their work ethics. You can see it … our freshmen and sophomores are playing at a higher level than freshmen and sophomores should be at. If they can continue that we could be in for a really good season.”
The commitment to the weights is something Moore thinks will help the younger players. He and his fellow upperclassmen were hoping to set an example.
“We’ve been in the weight room since baseball season. If we weren’t playing baseball we were in the weight room working,” Moore said. “Really, all the upperclassmen have been in the weight room for a long time, pushing each other and getting the freshmen and sophomores to work hard with us. Everyone has been really committed for a long time, and we were very excited to have the season get started.”
Last season, when things would go wrong, Howery admitted his older players may not have handled things the right way … Moore and Townsel included.
This season, that’s changed.
“There was a point before where Jason and Kalif would get upset, and it wouldn’t be productive for us,” he said. “They have really changed that in the last three or four weeks. Now they’re constructive and they teach out there. They’re helping the younger players and that’s been a huge part of the early success of this team.”
Townsel agrees he did not understand productive leadership last season.
“Last year I was a snapper,” he said. “I still have that mentality, but now I take it out on the other team. I’ve learned how to calm down, talk more and be a better teammate.”
For Moore, college is a given. Along with football offers, he is one of the top basketball players in the county and could get some Division I looks to play off-guard or small forward at the next level.
“I told Jason three years ago, when I first got here, that if he took care of things and worked hard things were going to happen for him,” Howery said. “He did, and things are happening. Louisville is looking at him and a lot of the MAC schools are looking at him so he is definitely on people’s radar.”
Townsel wants to play college football as well, but must keep his grades up.
“At 5-9, 220 pounds as a fullback, we on the coaching staff think he really could play in college at any level,” Howery said. “If we can get the grades where they have to be and if he can get any Division I looks he could play at that level.”
“He’s my cousin and I want him to do well and he really has influenced me to do better,” Townsel added. “I guess you could say he has rubbed off on me so my head is on straight now and it’s all about football. I want to get somewhere and get to college some day.”
Regardless of plans for next season, Oberlin has a game to worry about tonight against Richmond Heights. One thing is for sure, when Moore drops back to pass, he isn’t just relying on a teammate to protect him … he’s relying on family.
“I have a lot of trust in him,” Moore said of Townsel. “Knowing I have my cousin behind be, blocking for my back side, gives me a lot of confidence because he’s not going to let anything happen to me.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.