HARTINGTON — Once rivals, Noah Pelan and James Kaiser are on the same side for the Cedar Catholic Trojans football cause.
Only six years removed from Pelan’s David City Aquinas team steamrolling to a 40-6 state title game win over Kaiser’s alma mater – Cedar Catholic – the two now roam the same sideline for the Trojans.
“It’s a pretty cool and unique story,” Pelan said. “James was a really good player for Cedar Catholic and they had a great team that year. It’s interesting to hear stories about that game from the opponent’s perspective.”
Aquinas had beaten Cedar Catholic 7-0 in the regular season opener and benefitted from Kaiser’s early, second-half injury in the title game to make sledding a lot easier in the Memorial Stadium contest.
“The injury was very tough on me because it was one of those moments where you put everything you had into the season, and I wasn’t able to finish what we started as a team,” Kaiser said. “But if I put it into perspective, making it to Memorial Stadium is every kid’s dream and at least I got to feel that for one half.”
The injury did more than put an early end to Kaiser’s championship game, it also delayed the start of his senior season of basketball.
“I ended up fracturing two ribs in two different spots because I took a knee just below my shoulder pads,” he said.
So bygones are bygones?
“I enjoy coaching alongside Noah because he has a very good understanding of the game,” Kaiser said.
Kaiser said the two have more in common then he realized.
“We have a few friends in common that I just so happened to room with this past year when I was in Fremont. I’d ask them questions and they would fill me in with their perspective of Noah,” he said. “Granted, these are Wahoo guys and like to joke about things, but I got a good understanding of who he was. So, when I first met him I didn’t know much else besides that he was one of the key backs for Aquinas when we played them in the state final game six years ago. Now, our classrooms are right next to each other and I’d consider us pretty good friends. To be honest, I think the Cedar community is lucky to have a young teacher who is dedicated to helping out students and athletes.”
Head coach Chad Cattau is grateful to have both young men in the fold.
“They have both done anything and everything we have asked of them up to this point,” Cattau said. “I really appreciate their positive energy and willingness to learn what we are trying to do as a team. The players have already grown a respect for each of them because of their knowledge that they have and the way they present their coaching points.
“I know they will both continue to develop and grow as coaches and role models for all of our students so being able to see that growth is exciting for me as a person and coach.”
Pelan coaches running back and linebackers, having had a long history in both positions.
“He has done an excellent job of jumping right in and coaching the kids hard and not accepting less than a great effort,” Cattau said. “He is also a film guru that loves to break down our own film and our opponents’ film. This is a very under-rated aspect of the job and I know he will have great success because of his commitment to the game both on the field and off of it.”
Kaiser came back home and works with wide receivers and defensive backs following a career at Cedar Catholic playing the former along with being the starting quarterback.
“Coach Kaiser showed up and already had a lot of respect from the players because of his history at our school,” Cattau said. “He had an immediate connection with the kids and they are really working hard for him. He played both receiver and quarterback during his career here so he has a knowledge of both positions so he is able to offer some help in a variety of ways.
Cattau said Kaiser’s own personal experiences have already helped the team.
“I believe his knowledge of those positions will be a great addition to our team. He understands the little nuances that it takes to have success there.”
So far the transition for Pelan to come and work for his former enemy has been smooth.
“I always had a really high level of respect for Cedar Catholic when competing against them,” Pelan said. “They were always well-coached and very clean competitors on the field. When I saw the job opening, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to teach and coach at a highly respected and traditional power. I also have a very high level of respect for Coach Cattau and was thrilled to be able to learn from him.”
Being from Aquinas has not been an issue.
“There’s certainly no bad blood - or at least from my perspective,” he said. “The kids like to bring it up and ask about playing at Aquinas, which is always an interesting conversation.”
Kaiser’s injury lingered into the basketball season, which kept him from the sport he focused on, but it was what it was.
“I wouldn’t take back any moment that led up to the injury. In the end, making it to the title game was all worth it,” Kaiser said. “I felt like I learned a lot about leadership that year. It was my first and only year playing varsity quarterback. Quarterback was a role that I was already used to at the JV level, but varsity decisions have to be made quicker.
“I’d say that the years before I wasn’t much of a vocal leader, but by the time I was a senior, I started to figure out what a vocal leader is supposed to say and do.”
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