This weekend won’t be the first time Tanner Skeel has been a valued contributor to the Greenwood Community High School football team inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
During the Woodmen’s 37-14 loss to Columbus East to open the 2009 season, Skeel, then a seventh-grader, was one of the team’s water boys. “I even got to see my face on the big screen,” Skeel remembered, laughing.
If last week’s performance was an indication, expect No. 5 in the green jersey to appear again on the big screen when Class 4A Greenwood plays county rival Class 3A Indian Creek at 8 p.m. Saturday in Indianapolis.
A 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior quarterback, Skeel ran for five touchdowns and threw for another in last week’s 56-28 win against visiting Class 6A Perry Meridian. He finished with 157 yards on 14 carries, with TD bursts covering 11, 57 and 30 yards with a pair of 1-yard plunges thrown in for good measure.
“That was by far the best game I’ve ever had,” Skeel said. “In bantam league I was kind of a mediocre player, and in eighth grade I didn’t play that much. When I did it was usually on defense as a linebacker or end.
“By the time I was a freshman, I was playing offense and defense.”
Skeel’s emergence began last season when he literally ran with the starting QB role, rushing for 868 yards — sixth-best in Johnson County overall and tops among quarterbacks — and five scores for a 5-6 Woodmen squad. He also completed 61 of 131 pass attempts for 642 yards and four TDs.
“Running is my strength; but when coach calls for a pass, I know I’ll have time to throw,” Skeel said. “We threw it only three times last week, but we had over 120 yards passing.”
Greenwood coach Mike Campbell figured he would have himself a quarterback once Skeel’s maturity caught up to his physical skills. The past dozen Woodmen games dating back to the 2013 season have only accelerated the process.
“What Tanner has done is make himself a much better quarterback. As a coaching staff we’re putting more on him with checks and reads. He made a few checks last week that were obviously the right ones,” Campbell said.
“But where he’s improved the most is his ball-handling. He and (junior running back) Johnny (Gallman) work well together, and they both know if it’s working it’s beneficial to the team.”
The ability of both players to convincingly carry out fakes served Greenwood well with 359 yards rushing against the Falcons. Gallman provided 179 and two scores on 21 carries.
“From where Tanner has come since his freshman year, he’s always been a solid student,” Campbell said. “But now just to see how he works with his teammates.”
Last season the Woodmen rallied for a 33-28 victory at Indian Creek, the program’s fourth-straight win in the series and fifth in six meetings with the Braves.
The stage is set, and to a high school football player in Indiana, Lucas Oil Stadium is as big as it gets.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Skeel said. “Indian Creek has a good defense and a good offense, but what we need to focus on as a team is being more consistent than we were last year.”