NORTON SHORES, Mich. (WOOD) — If you say the name Brady Rose to anyone who follows high school football in the state of Michigan, they are probably going to tell you exactly who he is.
The former standout quarterback at Mona Shores High School just completed his career as a Sailor in 2020. He went out with a bang, winning back-to-back state championships in 2019 and 2020.
Now, Rose has graduated and moved on to continue his football and academic career at Ferris State University. He left the team on an 18-game winning streak heading into the 2021 campaign.
So, who’s filling the shoes of the unforgettable legacy Rose left behind?
Senior quarterback Mark Konecny will be moving into that role.
During Rose’s runs at quarterback to defeat Walled Lake Western High School (2019) and Detroit’s Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School (2020), Konecny has been waiting behind the scenes, putting in work at the position.
For the 6-foot, 205-pound signal caller, he did learn a lot from Rose.
However, this is Konecny’s story in 2021 and he’s ready to show off the work he’s put in.
“To win back-to-back state championships, it takes a great leader like Brady Rose — I do think about it,” Konecny said. “But now it’s my turn to write my own story. I don’t put too much pressure on it, I just want to win and have fun with this team.”
The stats Rose put together in his final act as a senior during a shortened season due to COVID-19 were nothing short of greatness. He rushed 112 times for 919 yards with 17 touchdowns. He threw for 908 yards on 48-of-73 passing (66%) with 10 scores to just one interception. He even caught four passes for 81 yards with a touchdown and had a punt return score to go with 125 return yards.
Rose wasn’t the only veteran member of the team from 2020 that the Sailors lose heading into 2021. They lost a strong set of linemen and a couple skill position players who had big roles as well.
For head coach Matt Koziak, it’s about getting this group to block out the past and focus on the now.
“The back-to-back state titles were great and we are really proud of that, but now it’s 2021,” Koziak said. “We got to focus on this season and obviously that’s a goal for us, but we’re not going to win (the state championship) today.
“What we have to do is just win today, take advantage of every second at practice.”
As the team prepares for its opening game of the season on Aug. 26 at Lowell High School, Koziak is looking to his returning players for guidance to the younger core.
In fact, for a lot of these players, it will be their first time playing in front of fans in louder environments on the road. The Sailors open the season with three consecutive road games, including that opener with the Lowell Red Arrows, followed by Detroit King and Union High School.
One of those senior leaders who does bring experience at the varsity level is senior running back Elijah Johnson. While there are plenty of eyes on Konecny, Johnson was the player who spent plenty of downs standing next to or behind Rose in the backfield.
He knows what it will take to three-peat for a state title.
“We’ve learned a lot from the seniors that were here in the past, Brady Rose in particular who was a small guy but played really big,” Johnson said. “It’s been a blessing to make these runs, it’s almost like having another season in one. I’m excited to be a senior on this team and lead from the front.”
While Johnson has plenty of experience in the backfield, Konecny did put together good stats in the limited playing time he saw at quarterback a season ago.
Konecny completed 9-of-13 passes for 191 yards with three touchdowns and didn’t throw a single interception. On top of that, he added 172 yards on 18 carries with six scores. The 17-year-old has a family history at Mona Shores as well.
His father Mark Konecny played football at Alma College where he made the Scotts Hall of Fame as a running back and went on to make the NFL with the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles.
While this may seem to be a lot of pressure on Mark Konecny’s shoulders with comparisons to his father or Rose, Koziak believes he is ready to lead this team now under center.
“Brady was a tremendous player that you don’t see come along very often, but kids graduate and now it’s Mark’s turn to step up and make some plays,” Koziak said. “That’s what is great about this sport, I always say these kids are standing on the shoulders of guys in front of them. We will see who steps up this year.”
According to Johnson, he believes that Mark Konecny is ready to do just that.
“We believe in (Mark) and his ability back there,” Johnson said. “I’m hoping I can do my part to help him and this team along the way. I want my teammates to be able to lean on me if they ever need anything on or off the field, in the classroom, whatever it is.”
With a third consecutive state title run in the making, Mark Konecny, Johnson and the Sailors will lean on that guidance and experience to make another attempt at bringing more hardware back to Norton Shores.