Andrew Palacio is a do-it-all player for Raymond S. Kellis High School football
The junior, through six games, led a 1-5 Kellis team with 49 tackles and 159 rushing yards. Kellis is part of the Peoria Unified School District.
On a thin roster – coach Stephen Hogg said during a mid-week practice the Cougars have 29 healthy players at the varsity level, far less than most of their 5A opponents – many players have to play both offense and defense. Palacio even trots onto the field for most of the special teams’ snaps. Rather than a punishment, he appreciates taking the gridiron on every play he can.
“I don’t think it’s tiring because football is so amazing. I see it as a gift to be out there as much as I can. When I get home, I have to take a hot bath and I’m definitely sore, but I love it,” he said.
A desire to improve and versatility to play all sides of the ball, is one of the major factors for his success. Palacio began playing at 7. Strong and fast, he played several positions growing up and played quarterback on the freshman Cougar team two years ago.
As a sophomore in 2018, he was moved up to varsity to play cornerback, a position he had not played since middle school. Hogg remembers Palacio being aggressive to the point of detriment, playing up and challenging receivers too shallow on cover three formations, or dropping too deep in cover two.
“From last year to this year he has made incredible improvement,” Hogg said.
Even that position did not last, though. Palacio normally plays safety, where he utilizes his strength and love of contact. He leads the team in tackles and helps call out assignments.
In the team’s first game Aug. 30 against run-heavy Barry Goldwater High, Hogg realized he did not need two safeties. He moved Palacio to outside linebacker, where he did so well that he remained there for several games.
“It made a big difference,” Hogg said.
And, when starting quarterback Kalen Jordan had to miss time with a concussion, Palacio got the nod to fill in behind the center.
“I asked him Monday whether he could take snaps and play there, and there was no question, no concerns of whether he could handle it or not,” Hogg said.
Playing both sides of the ball, Palacio said he uses his experience as a quarterback to evaluate what he should do for defense.
Now, Hogg is challenging him to become even more of an emotional leader.
As a junior, Palacio said he did not have seniority to speak his mind at first. However, showcasing his work ethic and talent each day in practice, he has gained respect from his teammates. He believes Kellis is trending in the right direction.
“We may have not won a lot, but we’re a better group,” Palacio said. “We’re all listening to each other, and enjoying the sport, and it’s been a good year in that way.”