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Military looms large in Kerchner's future

11/25/2013, 8:05pm PST
By John Maffei

Ramona's Travis Kerchner has military in his future


Ramona, CA_11/25/2013_Ramona high school football player Travis Kerchner has offers to play football for Navy, Army and the Air Force. Photo by John Gastaldo/U-T San Diego/Mandatory Credit: John Gastaldo/U-T San Diego/Zuma Press

Down the road, Travis Kerchner must make a decision, one that could shape the rest of his life.

All three service academies - Army, Navy and Air Force - have offered the Ramona High linebacker commissions. All three want him to play football.

"I understand how important this is, but before I make a decision, this football team has some unfinished business," the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Kerchner said.

After nearly a decade of first-game eliminations, Ramona made it to the San Diego Section Division II championship game last season, losing 42-14 to Lincoln.

Wednesday, the senior-laden Bulldogs, 10-1 and seeded No. 2, host No. 3-seed Cathedral Catholic (9-2) in a Division I semifinal.

The winner advances to Monday's title game in Qualcomm Stadium.

"Cathedral Catholic is very good, no question," Kerchner said. "But we've beaten some good teams this season (most notably Grossmont and Helix). So we have an enormous sense of confidence."

The defense, led by Kerchner has been a big part of Ramona's success.

The Bulldogs are allowing just 15.0 points a game, have two shutouts and have allowed seven points or less in three other games.

Kerchner, who plays sideline-to-sideline has 119 tackles - 79 of those solo, seven quarterback sacks, 12 quarterback hurries, eight caused fumbles and two interceptions.

"He was a guy we had to account for," said Oceanside coach John Carroll, the one team to beat Ramona this season. "He's a really good player, very active."

It's that activity that has the college recruiters scratching their heads.

"A lot of colleges - teams like Cal, San Diego State - really like Travis, but they aren't sure what he is," said Ramona coach Damon Baldwin, an offensive lineman at san Diego State, who went on to play professionally in NFL Europe and the World League.

"He has had a phenomenal season. He's one of the best linebackers in the county.

"He's fast, runs 4.6 in the 40. And he's quick.

"But the colleges aren't sure if he'll stretch out to 6-3, 220 and be a linebacker or will he stay the same size and be a free safety.

"The service academies aren't looking for huge guys. They're looking for football players.

"So that might be his best option."

Kerchner realizes it's a great option.

With a 4.2 GPA this semester and 3.8 overall while taking at least two AP classes a semester since since sophomore year, Kerchner has the grades to qualify for the academies.

He also has a military background. His father, Scott, spent 30 years in the Marines most of those flying helicopters.

The family has lived in Arizona, Hawaii, Pennsylvania and Virginia before settling in California.

Steve Kerchner was stationed at Camp Pendleton and Mira Mar before moving to his family to Ramona, finally retiring as a colonel.

"Living in Ramona has been awesome," Travis Kerchner said. "This a tight community, a special place.

"I've known 90 percent of my teammates since fourth grade.

"With Coach Baldwin's background, our football team is run like a college program. We're pushed and pushed hard. We're held accountable.

"But we're prepared physically and mentally for every game."

Kerchner is also prepared to take the next step.

College doesn't scare him. And he welcomes commitment.

"Playing in college has been a long-time goal," he said. "The fact all three academies want me is very flattering. Actually, it's a weight off my shoulders that I know I have a place to play."

But where will that be?

"Because of my dad, I have aviation is in my blood," Kerchner said. "I'd like to fly.

"If I had to choose today, it would be Navy, Air Force, Army. And if I do choose one of the academies, I'll make it a career. You can't get the great education an academy affords you, and walk away after the minimum time.

"But I'm not ready to commit to today. I'm getting ready to play Cathedral Catholic and hopefully a game beyond that."

john.maffei@utsandiego.com

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