By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
CAMP POINT, Ill. -- Seth Leezer just couldn't keep up with his teammates.
During the summer of 2011, Leezer struggled with "Steeler miles," what his coaches call laps around the field.
After he suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Panthers' win over Monmouth-Roseville in Week 7 of the 2011 season, the Central-Southeastern quarterback watched the final four games from the sideline. During that time, Leezer decided it was time to get in shape.
"Watching that last year wasn't any fun," said Leezer, now a senior. "I was thinking I had started seven games and lost all of my hard work because of a season-ending knee injury. My only goal was to get in the best shape I could so I could play."
Unlike many senior high school football players who look to bulk up, Leezer sought a more streamlined physique. He was tired of being tired in practice.
He felt it "more in practice than I did in games," Leezer said. "I would be dragging because of all the extra weight I had to carry."
After having knee surgery in December, Leezer rested for about seven weeks before he started conditioning. Leezer shaved 30 pounds and is now 6-foot, 205 pounds. He will be under center when C-SE (12-0) plays Belleville-Althoff in a Class 2A semifinal at 2 p.m. Saturday at Lindenwood-Belleville University.
Instituting a regular running regiment and attending basketball open gyms helped him shed the weight. Panthers coach Brad Dixon said Leezer was dedicated in the weight room.
"He got himself into some really good shape this summer," Dixon said. "He and (lineman) Drew Miller, who were both injured last season, both put in the time. From the point football was over last year, Seth put himself into position to make sure he was on the field this season."
Leezer's role for C-SE is that of a con man. Misdirection and trickery are his specialty.
On special teams, he is the kicker of a unit trying to create extra possessions. Offensively, he tries to convince defenders the ball is heading in another direction in C-SE's double-wing offense.
Leezer loves his role. He has 24 yards rushing and four touchdowns and is 18-of-44 passing for 434 yards and eight touchdowns.
More importantly, the Panthers are 19-0 when Leezer has started under center the past two seasons.
"We don't pass, and it's OK," Leezer said. "I try to carry out the best fakes I can to make the other team come after me when I don't have football."
Dixon said Leezer does a lot of different things, even if most people can't discern the differences between plays.
"We haven't asked a lot of Seth," Dixon said. "But he's someone who does exactly what he is asked. A lot of the fakes he does, it may look like it's the same play to crowd, but the footwork is different. There are a lot of different nuances to what he has to do. Seth has handled it in stride. When we ask him to throw the football, he's able to get the ball where it needs to go."
After shedding the weight, Leezer didn't lag behind anymore. He's hoping his hard work will lead C-SE to a berth in the state title game.
"The first day of practice seemed easier," Leezer said. "When I came out, I led the running back group around the field in Steeler miles."