Neighbors, cousins, quarterbacks
Simons, Thiele lead varsity football teams to 10-0 starts
You'll find a lot in common among the residents of Atkins Knoll Road in Oconomowoc along Silver Lake. Pretty much all of them are related, after all.
"My dad's mom and dad live next door on one side," said Luke Thiele, a junior at Lakeside Lutheran High School. "Jacob (Simons, cousin) lives next door to me. My mom's mom and dad live next to Jacob. My dad's uncle lives two doors down from us as well. My dad's cousin lives another door down. There are six houses, including mine, that kind of forms a triangle, you could say."
Jacob's mother and Luke's father are siblings. Not only are the two related by blood - and next door neighbors - but Simons and Thiele also happen to be pretty good at quarterbacking. Simons, a senior at Lake Country Lutheran, recently quarterbacked his team to Level 3 of the WIAA playoffs in Division 7, where it lost to Randolph. Thiele's team fell in Level 3 to Big Foot in Division 4.
Both teams headed into the playoff battle at 10-0.
"When I was in seventh grade, we played for the Lake Country youth team," Thiele said. "Jacob was in eighth grade so he was quarterback and middle linebacker, and I played receiver and corner. There were a couple other guys that were eighth graders that played more than me on offense. It was still fun. If I would have gone to LCL, I would have had a good time playing with him, but it ended up working out pretty well."
This was Thiele's first season quarterbacking the varsity, while Simons finished his second year at the helm in addition to playing safety. He threw for 1,534 yards and ran for 695 as his team navigated the regular season undefeated for the first time in school history and won the Midwest Classic.
"Actually, no team in our conference has ever gone undefeated, so this was a really cool thing," Simons said. "My senior class won the last four conference championships, and in Week 1, we beat Burlington Catholic Central. Our school has never beaten them in any varsity sport.
"Our offensive line is outstanding. I think we tend to run more in situations where we kind of know we're going to dominate on the line, but when we were in situations where we needed a big play, we passed the ball. In all of our close games, we had to rely on our pass game to get a momentum shift."
Though LCL fell at Level 3 for the second year in a row, the Lightning have become one of the top D7 programs in the state.
"(The coaches) are all super good friends and hang out even after the football season, and I think their relationships with each other and with the school and team really make a huge difference," Simons said.
Simons, who also plays baseball at the tiny Hartland-based school, wants to play football in college but hasn't selected a destination. He's been able to see his cousin play one game this year, and he laughed when asked who had the better quarterback skills.
"No I don't think he'sbetter than me," Simons said. "They don't really pass much, but I still think he's a pretty good quarterback. I think they should pass more; he's better than they think he is, but their coach has been there a long time and wants to run the same offense every time."
That offense is the double wing, and it's hard to argue with the results. The Capitol North Conference champions featured two 1,000-yard rushers in Brennan Leis (1,557 yards) and Ryan Broedlow (1,182).
Thiele, who played defensive back as a sophomore with the varsity last year and again this year in addition to quarterback, is in charge of getting those two the ball.
"We pass when we have to, but we're a run-first team," he said. "They both run hard and were really good."
Thiele, who has a 30-minute commute to attend the school from which his father graduated, said his team's season was highlighted by two wins over Lake Mills, including once in the playoffs. The Warriors were barely challenged this year until Big Foot won on Friday, 52-17.
"We knew they were good from scouting them and the film we watched, and we gave them our best effort in the first quarter," Thiele said. "We had some momentum going in the first quarter and stopped them on defense. We went up 10-6, and they just scored a ton of points in a row. It was almost like a blur, I don't remember how it all broke down. I think they would have beaten us 10 out of 10 times."
Still, it was a remarkable season for Thiele, whose athletic endeavors are far from over this year. By Monday, he had started basketball practice, and he thinks of himself as a "track guy" after taking ninth place in the WIAA state meet in the 300-meter hurdles last year as a sophomore. He also runs the 110-meter hurdles.
Thiele has seen Simons play three times this year.
"If I was playing against him, I would definitely feel like I have my hands full, because he can make any throw," Thiele said. "I'd be in for a good game if I played them. He's kind of a dual threat quarterback and can run and throw at any time."
One would think this could be settled by rallying the family together for a neighborhood game of flag football.
"(My friends) usually ask if it's good or if it's bad," Thiele said of having so many family members in close proximity. "They usually think we see each other a lot, but we actually don't any more than you would see your neighbors."
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