Futbol to football: Fields thriving in transition to gridiron

Sean Welsh/Register

BROOKINGS – For the past three falls, Keegan Fields has put all of his focus on the soccer field. This year, Fields has shifted his focus to the football field.

He played varsity soccer for Brookings his first three years of high school, but decided to put on the pads and play football in his senior season. Fields said the new coaching staff and having friends on the team played a big part in switching fall sports.

“There was new coaches, so it was kind of like a fresh slate and a lot of my friends play football. They always have, so I thought I’d get back into it,” Fields said.

Fields plays running back and safety for the Bobcats and has been a key contributor to a team that is undefeated and playing for a state title on Friday. Brookings head coach Brady Clark said he could see potential from Fields when he joined the team this summer, but he had a lot to learn on the offensive side of the ball.

“Keegan came on during the summer and he was at summer workouts with us and everything,” Clark said. “We could tell that he was an athletic kid, but his football knowledge wasn’t quite there, but he’s very coachable and willing to learn and an extremely hard worker. 

“We thought right away that defense was going to be the best fit for him and he’s evolved. He evolved into that running back position. Once Cole [McKeown] went down, Keegan saw more playing time there and ran with it. Literally and figuratively.”

Fields has 500 yards rushing and three rushing touchdowns this season. He played football up until he made the varsity soccer team as freshman and said he knew getting back into football was going to be tough, so he worked out with teammates in the summer to help him get ready for fall practices.

“I put in a lot of work in the summer because I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Fields said. “I spent a lot of time out at the football fields because with COVID, there wasn’t much to do. So I spent time with Max Struck, Noah Bayer, Jaxon Bowes and John Noordsy. We were just out there catching passes and running routes. When I actually started practice, it took a little getting used to running plays and stuff, but as far as like football and being athletic, it wasn’t that bad.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Fields has 28 tackles, three tackles for a loss, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. Clark said he has been impressed with how Fields takes what he learns in practice and uses it in games.

“[He’s exceled at] communication and understanding his responsibility in pass coverage. He’s not our best tackler, but the way he’s learned how to communicate and read offenses and see what we’ve shown in practice and relaying that to the field now during games has really helped put him in position to make plays,” Clark said.

Fields said he thinks he’s improved his receiving the most since getting back into football. The stats back that up as he has caught 13 passes for 319 yards and six touchdowns.

“I wasn’t the best with my hands prior to the summer and especially with running the routes. Running a 3-yard slant and getting the timing down was hard, but I think I’ve gotten it down as the season has gone on,” Fields said.

Clark thinks Fields has grown a lot on the offensive side of the ball. Especially in the run game.

“[He’s grown] tremendously,” Clark said. “The beginning of the year he didn’t know the numbers of the holes to run in. Just little things like that. Or he didn’t have a feel for the type of play we were running. If we were running a jet outside, he needs to get outside and aim for outside and follow our lead blocker. If we’re running a counter, he needs to cut it up. It’s just those little things. He’s evolved week by week.”

Fields and the Bobcats face Pierre in the South Dakota 11AA title game at 7 p.m. on Friday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.

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