Johnsburg’s Jake Metze ready for busy year at receiver, running back

Skyhawks senior recently received offer from NCAA Division I FCS Drake

Jake Metze runs with the ball during summer football practice Thursday, June 23, 2022, at Johnsburg High School in Johnsburg.

JOHNSBURG – Johnsburg’s Jake Metze, at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, packs a big punch.

“Pound for pound, he’s the strongest kid in our school,” Skyhawks fifth-year coach Sam Lesniak said. “We know what we’re going to get out of him every week. He’s going to bring it every day. The big thing we’re looking from him this year is being able to rally everybody and get everybody going.”

Along with senior lineman and four-year starter Jacob Welch (6-6, 290), Metze will be counted on to help carry over last year’s encouraging finish in which Johnsburg won three of its final four games after losing its first five.

The Skyhawks playmaker finished his junior year with big numbers as both a wide receiver and running back with 1,220 total yards and 14 touchdowns. He grabbed a team-high 49 catches for 574 yards and rushed a team-high 88 times for 646 yards.

With 17 players lost to graduation, Lesniak said Metze already has taken on a bigger leadership role, including taking younger players to and from practice. On the field, he’s someone the Skyhawks will look to get the ball to in a variety of ways.

He’ll also be a big factor in the return game and plays important downs on defense.

“He’s dynamic and a leader,” Lesniak said. “It’s going to be important to get the ball in his hands in many different ways, get the ball in his hands with some space. But even on inside runs, he runs super hard; he’s got great vision.

“As a slot receiver, he’s a matchup nightmare. You try to cover him 1-on-1 ... and good luck. He’s really good at understanding soft spots and zones and where to go. He’s put in a lot to football. He’s got a real big football IQ.”

Metze has had a busy and productive summer with camps at North Central College, Northern Illinois, Lake Forest, South Dakota and Drake. He already has received an offer from Drake, an NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision school in Des Moines, Iowa.

Welch, who recently committed to Northern Illinois, said Metze’s work ethic is contagious.

“He just makes practice better,” Welch said. “He’s an energy booster. People practice harder just by being around him. He will give you criticism, but it’s positive and makes you want to work even harder. He’s been that way since sophomore year.”

“We’ll be in school, I’ll see him and he’ll make a fake jump cut. He’s super confident.”

Jake Metze catches the ball during summer football practice Thursday, June 23, 2022, at Johnsburg High School in Johnsburg.

Metze ran a 40-yard dash of 4.58 seconds at North Central College and recorded a broad jump of 9 feet, 9 inches. His ability to go up and catch a ball is impressive, Lesniak said.

“He goes up and gets it,” Lesniak said. “He’ll try and win 1-on-1 balls with guys much bigger than him, and he does. He’s super explosive that way.”

Between running back and receiver, Metze said he enjoys running back more “because you’ve got to be tough, and you’re going to be real tired getting carry after carry.” It also tests the mental side of the game, he said.

“I’m pretty good at getting the ball in open space and making my way through the defense,” Metze said. “My goal this year is 20 touchdowns and just working on anything and everything I can do to make the team better and get more wins.”

Metze, who was a Northwest Herald honorable mention selection last fall, hopes his energy rubs off on the rest of the team.

If practice is any indication, it does.

“When we got low [last year], we needed someone to bring everyone else up, and I think I helped do that,” Metze said. “I think we can definitely make the playoffs [for the first time since 2018]. We’ve got a lot of seniors that will really push for that.

“We’ve just got to get all of these young guys on board. It’s really about finishing the game. Last year, we’d start hot. This year, we have to finish.”