by JORDAN IKEDA
It’s hard to follow in the footsteps of greatness—especially when it comes from your older brother. Just think for a moment how hard it was for Eli Manning to step into the NFL after his brother, Peyton, arguably the best and most consistent quarterback of the past decade, continually put up numbers that are currently propelling him into the ranks of the all-time greats.
Sometimes the younger gets swallowed up and lost in the long shadow of his elder brother. Other times it
takes a few years. Eli needed three seasons before he grew into his Super Bowl MVP form. In the case of Casey Nielsen, brother to former Gahr high school standout quarterback Corey, it’s taken all of seven games to pave his own path to greatness.
“Last year I was kind of in the shadows,” said the senior. “Now, I’ve stepped up. People are starting to notice who I am. I’m making a name for myself, not just being Corey’s little brother.”
Stepping up might be underselling his accomplishments. In seven games (4-3) this season, Casey has already amassed 2,616 yards through the air, 25 touchdowns to only seven picks, a glittering .697 completion percentage and an excellent 128 QB rating.
“This is only his second year playing football, which is pretty phenomenal being able to do what he’s able to do,” said John Nielsen, Gahr’s fifth-year offensive coordinator who also happens to be Casey’s uncle. “His potential is unlimited really on what he can do at the next level. I’m real excited about it.”
Last year, Corey threw for 4,363 yards, which paced California and was good for second in the nation, and included 35 touchdowns with just five interceptions.
This season, with Casey at the helm, the Gladiators have a real shot to make the CIF playoffs. If that happens, Casey will have a chance to break Corey’s single season state passing record.
“Casey is more like I was,” said John who coached both Casey and Corey. “When things happen, he just kind of flows with the game. Corey was fundamentally sound in all aspects of the game. Casey is pretty sound, but he has the potential to do some things where you’re like, ‘Wow, where’d that come from?’”
Casey is listed at 5-11 and weighs about 180 pounds. When asked who his favorite player growing up was, Doug Flutie is the immediate response.
“He was one of the smaller guys, but he still won the Heisman.”
The Rafu had a chance to watch Casey play two weeks ago for Gahr’s homecoming against Downey. He’s
primarily a passing quarterback, looking to evenly spread the ball around the field to his highly skilled receivers, but he moves well in the backfield and can make some plays with his feet for big gains.
He’s got long hair that flows out from under his helmet and makes him stand out almost as much as the quality of his game. He grew the hair long like his brother and despite the differing styles, is bringing the same level of success to the field as well.
“I got to learn from [Corey] being back one year,” he said. “I got to learn from my uncle as the coach as well. It’s been a great experience.”
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Doing work out at Loara High School in Anaheim is senior Michael Nakahara, a three-year letterman on the varsity football team. After spending his first two seasons strictly as a defensive player, this year, Michael is an iron man, getting reps in
at the full and half back positions as well as manning the defensive end at linebacker.
For the 2009 season, Loara is 4-1 in pre-league and 0-2 in the regular season falling to Kennedy and Cypress in consecutive weeks. Michael, who sports a 4.0 GPA, scored his first touchdown of the year against Sonora High School a few weeks ago.
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When last we checked in on Nick Okano, the starting free-safety for Harvard-Westlake High School, he had been nursing an ankle injury. Over the past two weeks, he’s played well. Against St. Bernard, Nick recorded 5 tackles (3 solos), a forced fumble and an interception for a TD in a 49-6 romp.
Last weekend, against Serra, the ninth ranked team in Cali that has 5-star wide receiver (who is already committed to USC) Robert Woods and several other 4-star prospects, Nick recorded 7 tackles (5 solos).
His hard work is not going unnoticed either. He picked up two more offers from Cornell and Dartmouth this week, adding to the growing list of offers that already includes Air Force, Princeton, Columbia, and Yale.
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Jason Tsukada is a junior wideout and defensive back for Walnut High School. The Mustangs started the season off 5-0 before dropping their last two games to Rowland and West Covina. Tsukada has seen his production rise over the past two games, where’s he’s had eight receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown. On the season, he has 10 catches. The Mustangs next face Nogales this weekend at home.
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Jordan is the sports editor of the Rafu Shimpo. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Rafu Shimpo.