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Thursday, December 1, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Football

Keo helps energize Archbishop Murphy

Seattle Times staff reporter

Shiloh Keo is not a low-key kind of guy.

Scan the Tacoma Dome turf before Saturday's Class 2A football state-championship game, and it should be easy to pick him out during pregame warmups. At 5 feet 11 and 175 pounds, Keo isn't one of the bigger players on Archbishop Murphy's team. But he lives large.

"I try to put excitement in things," he said. "On the field, I'm kind of loud. I'm the hyper guy out there, jumping around and screaming."

Archbishop Murphy coach Terry Ennis, a low-key kind of guy, can't help but grin when talking about Keo.

"He's just a delightful young man," Ennis said. "He's got a big smile and he's an enthusiastic kid who loves the game of football. He just devotes a lot of energy and enthusiasm to everything he does. He's one of those kids who brightens up a room when he walks in."

Keo has had a lights-out senior season at halfback and safety for the top-ranked Wildcats (14-0) from Mill Creek, who play No. 2 Pullman (13-0) Saturday at 10 a.m. Keo is one of two 1,000-yard rushers on an explosive team that has averaged nearly 57 points, and he's part of an exceptional defense that has allowed only 9.5 per game.

Keo and fullback Stan Smith are a potent 1-2 punch. Keo has rushed for 1,572 yards on 113 carries — 13.9 yards per carry — and scored 21 touchdowns. He also occasionally lines up at quarterback and has thrown three touchdown passes. Smith, more of an inside runner, has 1,459 yards on 137 carries (10.7 average) and a whopping 31 TDs.

This is only Keo's second season at Archbishop Murphy, where he also is an outstanding baseball shortstop. As a sophomore, he attended Woodinville and he is thrilled that the Falcons also are playing for a state championship, facing Skyline for the 4A title.

"It's pretty cool," Keo said. "I know most of the team. I'm proud of them. I wish I could be a part of the team, but I love it where I'm at. The change was perfect for me. I think I did the right thing."

He wasn't so sure at the time. Keo struggled academically as a ninth-grader. His parents looked into enrolling him as a sophomore at Archbishop Murphy, where his cousin Kyle Wilkins was a junior on the football team. But Keo didn't meet the school's academic standards, so he went to Woodinville as a sophomore and improved his grades, transferring last year. Although it helped to have Wilkins there, Keo had reservations at first.

"I didn't want to leave my friends," he said. "We'd grown up together all our lives and played football and basketball and baseball together. It was tough to leave."

But Keo quickly fit in and had a built-in fan base — his large extended family, which regularly attends games. His father, Regan, is Hawaiian. His mother, Diana, is Cuban. Football always has been a big part of family life. Shiloh is one of six children, although the first-born died in infancy.

"Football is our passion," said Shiloh, who often wears a candied or flower lei after games.

All were heartbroken last year when Archbishop Murphy lost in the 2A semifinals to East Valley of Yakima after leading by a touchdown with less than a minute to play. The Wildcats had won the previous two Class 1A titles and were riding a state-best 39-game winning streak.

"That loss motivated us for this year," Keo said, noting most of the returning players spent hours in the weight room beginning last December. "The whole team got bigger, faster and stronger and it paid off. It's really showed. Our ultimate goal is to win the state championship."

That weight-room work especially shows on Keo, who is very cut with six-pack abs. He said he can bench press 300 pounds and squat 385. Plus, he has excellent speed (4.68 seconds for 40 yards).

"He can get up to full speed in a hurry," Ennis said. "His biggest asset is that his instincts are very good and he likes to play very physical."

Keo also has that full-throttle motor.

"With Shiloh, whenever he goes out to play, whether it's a game or practice, he's always giving 110 percent," teammate Chris Hoerauf said.

And giving it with gusto.

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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