The legend of HPC’s 2020 senior trio is sure to last

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There was a moment standing on Memorial Stadium’s hallowed grounds with a state championship all but secure in pure appreciation for what you were watching.
It would be much easier to compile a list of accomplishments the High Plains Storm athletic trio of Keaton Van Housen, Dylan Soule and Jarrett Parsons hasn’t done.
They’ve won a state championship in football as part of the Osceola/High Plains Stormdogs in 2019, the perfect ending to a two-year cooperative behind a special 8-man group.
Two of them -- Soule and Parsons -- have each won state wrestling medals as part of HPC’s traditional powerhouse.
All three have various medals from the state track and field meet. They certainly had a chance to clean house if the spring season hadn’t been cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic.
But oh my, the tales that can be told about these guys.
Back in 2017 and before High Plains joined up with Osceola to play football, the Storm took a road trip north up to Elgin Public Pope John.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about the road trip,  but only being the second week of the season, the newness hadn’t quite worn off, so let’s play ball.
Van Housen made me pay attention that night.
Elusive No. 5 was responsible for four of High Plains’ seven touchdowns on the night, including three rushing scores and a kick return the length of the field for six. He even scored on a punt return that ended up not counting because of a penalty.
Van Housen makes running the football look much easier than it is. His cuts are crisp, his break tackle in Madden would be in the upper 90s and anyone standing on the tracks quickly found out not to go toe-to-toe with him.
His patience is something that’s hard to find with high school players and is on the elite-level status you see from big timers.
Sometimes, he had too much patience, which is hard to believe. He never forced anything and waited for the right hole to open up. Then, like a jet taking off, he was gone.
There was a moment against Howells-Dodge in the playoffs last fall when the Stormdogs were in trouble. Four touchdowns later from No. 5, the snow and ice on the ground couldn’t stop him.
There was one play where Van Housen took the snap and was met on the right side with a gaggle of players and nowhere to go.
Out of the pile came Van Housen from behind and he charged back to the left and scored, running more than 50 yards just to gain 20 and score.
It wasn’t just football, though.
I’ve witnessed this kid dunking a basketball on a fastbreak, a silky smooth jumper. When he was healthy, not many could leap into the sand pit farther than Van Housen.
For as great of an athlete as Van Housen is, it’s hard to argue that there’s anyone more versatile than Soule, who plays every sport and is arguably the best on the field every time.
For the longest time, High Plains and OHP ran Soule at the quarterback position, which was a big reason he and his teammate each rushed for 1,000 yards a couple seasons utilizing the read option.
However, Soule was never more “home” on the football field than when the Stormdogs lined him up in the fullback position, letting him put his head down and run over everyone in a way that would have made Joel Mackovicka proud.
Everyone saw that on display in the state championship game against Burwell when Soule ran for 145 yards, including the most important 11-yard run of his life.
OHP needed a first down up six with little time left and Soule carried most of the Longhorn defensive side on his back -- literally -- across the first down line to secure the first state title in football for both High Plains and Osceola.
On the wrestling mat, the kid was nearly untouchable, often making it look way too easy. I joked with him several times about making matches last longer on purpose so I could actually get a photo of him.
But, while it’s great to cover these kids in the best of times, there’s the other side of the coin, too -- disappointment.
Soule won 151 matches in his HPC wrestling career, but lost his final one, in the finals as a senior.
There isn’t a more helpless feeling. Watching a kid like Soule win so many matches and work so hard to lose by two points in the final 20 seconds.
Through the loss, Soule’s character was on full display. Hanging backstage in an emotional tailspin, he surely didn’t have to give me the time of day.
But he did. Moments after one of the biggest heartbreaks of his life, he shared those feelings with me. That’s the type of person he is.
Heck, those aren’t even the sports he considers to be his best.
Soule is headed to Chadron State to compete in track and field as a decathlete. I get tired just thinking about it.
Then there’s Parsons, who looks like an athlete who never skipped a leg day in his entire life.
That shows up on the pole vault runway as Parsons will continue to vault for UNK next year.
It’s too bad he didn’t get a chance to compete his senior year for High Plains, though, because he was always a bridesmaid before.
Twice his junior year, Parsons reset and tied his own school record vault of 13-10, the first of which at the Central Nebraska Track Championships and the other on the biggest stage -- the state track meet.
Despite the school record mark, Parsons was runner-up finisher in each of those events and was ready to win a few of those this year.
Parsons finished each Stormdog victory last fall with a signature backflip surrounded by his teammates, the last of which came just yards away from the famous ‘N’ at midfield of Memorial Stadium.
Was there more that this trio of Storm athletes could have accomplished? Sure.
Do they need any more accolades to prove how great they are? Absolutely not.

RICHARD RHODEN can be reached at sports@hamilton.net.

 

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