The 2012 NOW All-Suburban Football Team had a heavy Brookfield flavor.
First of all, Brookfield had five of the 28 players on this year’s team.
Second, Brookfield East had four players on the squad, more than any other school. Sussex Hamilton, Oak Creek, Muskego and Franklin had three.
Third, the Spartans had the NOW All-Suburban Player of the Year in senior defensive end Alec James. Brookfield had two players on offense and three on defense, four seniors and a junior.
For Brookfield East, junior Zach Damico made the team at quarterback and senior Zach Schober was named to the all-purpose position because of his excellence at running back, cornerback, linebacker and special teams.
Brookfield dominated the defensive line, led by the talented James and Brookfield Central’s Chikwe Obasih, both seniors. Rounding out the team was senior defensive back Brian Smith.
Here is a closer look at each player — except for James (
) — in alphabetical order.
At 5-foot-11 inches, 160 pounds, Damico is far from intimidating — until he takes the ball from center. He made the Spartans offense go and was the glue to this offense.
“He had a great year, allowing us to do things we could not do last year,” East coach Tom Swittel said. “Because of his knowledge and skills, we didn’t have to take things out of the game plan. He had 2,174 combined yards (1,203 passing, 971 rushing) with a combined 25 touchdowns. He finished the regular season with no interceptions.
“We used a no-huddle to dictate what the defense would do and it paid off for us,” Damico said. “I definitely liked using it. It gave us more freedom than you would normally get at this level. It helped us understand it even more as the season went on.” Damico was quick to share the credit with his teammates.
“It was a great feeling that we had so many guys out there who could make big plays,” he said. “It was something special to have. We had a very good O-line; not big, but strong, fast, aggressive.”
But it was Damico who made the offense go.
“We asked Zach to make a decision on every play,” Swittel said. “He is a tough, fast, elusive runner and a very efficient passer. The kid is unflappable, nothing bothers him. Not even me bitching at him.”
At 6-4, 245 pounds, Obasih was a 3-year starter and a 3-year first-team all-conference selection. Wissports.net named him second-best defensive lineman in the state in the preseason and he didn’t disappoint, getting 93 total tackles.
“He was the heart and soul of our defense,” Central coach Jamie Meulemans said. “He was a team captain. Chikwe combines good strength with great speed.”
Meulemans got Obasih in the weight room after his sophomore year, figuring he would be a three-technique in college.
“He got a lot stronger and he increased his speed,” Meulemans said. “He always does the extra; (he’s) the last guy in the weight room, even after track practice. He has the commitment and it paid off for him.”
Obasih gave Meulemans, who coaches the defensive line, a lot of credit for his development.
“I learned a lot,” he said. “Coach was a reason I was highly recruited. He would also teach us life lessons about being a good human being as well as a good football player.” Meulemans talked about Obasih off the field.
“As a person, he’s a great leader. He cares about all his teammates — starters and non-starters. That speaks volumes about him.”
A unanimous selection at All-Purpose, he was the leading vote-getter on the Greater Metro Conference All-Conference Team. “He played every down on defense at two different positions so he basically never left the field,” East coach Tom Swittel said.
“Takes a lot, but I didn’t mind it at all,” Schober said. “I loved going both ways: running the ball and making tackles.” He rushed for 1,125 yards and 12 touchdowns, but Damico cut into his rushing totals.
“He’s an unselfish team player,” Swittel said. “Not many guys would accept carrying the ball so much less than the previous year but he did it without complaining.
“He’s a very instinctive runner with a knack for finding daylight. He was also a strong runner, who was tough to bring down.”
As a heat-seeking missile at defensive back before switching to linebacker because of a teammate’s injury, he had 19 solo tackles, 23 assists, six tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and four interceptions.
“It was a big adjustment,” Schober said. “I never played linebacker before; only safety and cornerback. As a linebacker, I was filling in the holes, making different plays. It was a whole different game.”
Then Swittel gave him perhaps the biggest complement ever.
“He’s the best running back I ever coached,” said the man who coached the amazing Jake Wolter at Wauwatosa East.
You don’t find many cornerbacks who are 6-4, 200 pounds and run a 4.5 40-yard dash in the NFL — let alone in high school. Smith had a tremendous season, earning first-team All-Greater Metro Conference. He was the top vote-getter at defensive back — where he made the NOW All-Suburban Team — as well as wide receiver, where he gave Damico another huge weapon.
“He has a tremendous upside as a defensive player, as he is big and fast and covers a lot of ground,” Swittel said. “He hits like a linebacker.
He led the conference with seven interceptions, one of which he returned for a score. He also had two more picks in the first playoff game to go along with his interceptions and he blocked a kick. He caught 31 passes for 518 yards for seven touchdowns and ran for a score.
Smith talked about going both ways and why he enjoyed it.
“It’s no easy task,” he said. “It’s hard on the body. That Sussex game in overtime, it was a grind. But this is what we love to do. So I had to do it for my coaches and my teammates.” Smith had an interesting answer when asked: What was the turning point of the season?
“The end of last season,” he said. “From that point on, our senior class worked so hard for this. We deserved it. We definitely deserved it.”
James and Obasih have full rides to Wisconsin, while Smith has been offered a preferred walk-on at Wisconsin. Schober is still undecided.
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