Prior to taking the field last week, Waskom senior Paxton Keeling watched a game film from 2015.
“Before our game Friday against Hughes Springs, I went home and I actually watched the state game against Franklin,” the Wildcats receiver said. “It gives you motivation to watch things like that.”
The senior wide receiver wasn’t on the team yet at that point but was close to the team as it was and still is coached by his dad, Whitney Keeling. The younger Keeling hopes to not only win a ring for himself while he still but also for his dad.
“That would be awesome if he could win another,” Paxton said. “It’s hard to win your first one but once you get that out of the way, that’s your goal when you start the season is to make it back to the state championship.”
“It’s special,” Whitney said when asked what it’s like to coach his son. “There’s no doubt about it. I got to coach my oldest (Dylan Harkrider) from 2012-2015 when he graduated. Those are special times. You don’t ever get those moments back. Paxton has really grown up a lot last year and this year for sure. He’s a leader of our football team. He’s one of the vocal leaders of our team. The kids have a lot of respect for him. He does things the right way. He’s a very unselfish player. In an offense that doesn’t throw the ball very much, he’s a receiver. That doesn’t happen very often. He takes that role very responsibly. He doesn’t care about the accolades. He wants to win.”
The father and son say football has been a topic at home more than it has in the past.
“We’ll go home and talk about how practice was, how it looks for Friday,” Paxton said.
“He’s usually been a baseball and basketball kid but this year he’s really taken more to football than he has in the past,” Whitney offered. “He asks questions about game plans and things of that nature where he hadn’t done that previously.”
“I don’t really think it’s different from anybody else other than the other teams talking a little smack about how I’m ‘Daddy’s boy’ but other than that, I don’t think there’s much of a difference,” Paxton added.
So far this season, the younger Keeling has 97 receiving yards and two touchdowns as his Wildcats own a perfect 4-0 overall record and a district record of 2-0 and are looking to add a win tonight on the road against Queen City even though they don’t necessarily talk about the record.
“I don’t ever say anything to them about that stuff other than winning is contagious as well as losing,” the coach said. “We want to keep the momentum going for as long as we can keep it going so that’s what we’ve been trying to do.
“They’re very multiple so we have to defend the run and the pass a little bit different than the teams we’ve faced over the last couple weeks,” Whitney added when asked about tonight’s opponent. “On the offensive side, we’ve just got to keep getting better. Our deal is we can only control what we can control and that’s what we’re looking to do.”
Both Father and son see a lot of potential in their Wildcats.
“It’s really good,” the coach said when asked about his team’s chemistry. “It’s probably one of the most special groups I’ve had in a while. They really do care for each other and I really do think they believe we have a really good opportunity to be a really good football team. They’re willing to put in the work that it takes to be one.”
“Hopefully we finish the year out and win district,” Paxton said, “then go to the playoffs and hopefully we can make a long playoff run.”
“We have a good kicking game,” the coach continued. “There are a lot of positives that go into our football team. As long as we continue to play well and are healthy, we have a chance to go as far as they’ll take us.”
Paxton plans to attend University of Texas. He’s unsure of what he wants to major in but says he’s given some consideration to following his father’s footsteps into the coaching field.
“I’m thinking about it,” he said. “That would be ideal for me I think. Being around sports is probably the best way to go.”
In the meantime, he’s enjoying playing for his father while he still can and tonight, they’re looking to defeat the Bulldogs. Kickoff for tonight’s game is slated for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Smith-Wall Stadium.