The Metamora football coach knew his QB would be special. Why? It's his sister's kid

Metamora quarterback Kaden Hartnett, facing, talks with running back Kam Davis during a break in the action against Canton on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 in Metamora.

METAMORA — Jared Grebner knew years ago that his nephew was going to be great on the football field, in the long run.

And that's exactly what happened Friday, as Metamora senior quarterback Kaden Hartnett, his nephew, led a 54-20 victory over Canton in a Mid-Illini Conference game at Malone Field.

Hartnett had long touchdown runs of 46, 33, 57 and 43 and ran 12 times for 223 yards. He also threw a 16-yard touchdown pass.

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And then halftime arrived for these two branches of a Metamora football family tree.

"We always knew we had an athlete in him," said Metamora coach Grebner. "His sophomore year, he made this run, I forget what team is was against, but he made an inside move and ran the length of the field, and we knew he was going to be special."

On Friday, it was four touchdown runs on the same play call.

"Tribe Right, FSQ, Token," Hartnett said, grinning, when asked what that play call was that sprung him four times. "Sometimes, when calls come in you just know they have a chance to be big runs, big plays. It's instinct, I read the defense, our line does a great job blocking it, and then we just react."

Metamora quarterback Kaden Hartnett tears through the Canton defense for a touchdown run in the first half Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 in Metamora.

A football family tree

Jared Grebner became Metamora's 10th coach in 73 years when he was hired in March of 2020, following Pat Ryan's retirement.

Grebner played at Metamora, a quarterback/safety who led Metamora to a Class 4A second-place finish as a senior in 1996, capturing Journal Star Player of the Years honors.

He went on to a long stint as one of Ryan's assistants, and later became defensive coordinator.

His older sister, Andrea, is Cade Hartnett's mother. So Grebner is Uncle Jared to his starting quarterback.

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"He was always ornery growing up," Grebner said, laughing. "Especially sports. Very competitive kid. I didn't have to really show him anything, he had great coaches and great motivation."

Hartnett's branch of this Metamora football family tree includes a brother, Keegan, and a sister, Karagan, plus mom, Andrea and dad, Brendan.

Metamora's Ben Wallace lifts quarterback Kaden Hartnett after one of Hartnett's first half touchdowns against Canton on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 in Metamora.

He grew up playing baseball, basketball, football and track. He still does the first three at the high school varsity level.

"My uncle was always picking on us, all the cousins," Hartnett said, laughing. "He'd joke around a lot with us. But I know his stories. How he went to the state championship game, won the Journal Star Player of the Year honors, all that.

"I want to do that, too, continue that legacy."

He also wants to continue it in college. He's had football interest from North Central, Wisconsin-Platteville, McKendree University, Monmouth and St. Francis (Ill.).

His uncle played for McKendree when it was known as McKendree College.

Tribe Right, FSQ, Token

Metamora (3-2 overall, 2-1 in the Mid-Illini Conference) got a 46-yard TD run on a keeper from Hartnett for the game's first points with 9:02 left in the first quarter.

Hartnett ran the same play for 33 yards and a score on the next possession for a 14-0 lead with 5:28 left.

Canton (1-4, 1-2) answered when quarterback Cale Barnhart tossed a 33-yard TD pass to Korbin Woerly to move within 14-6.

Canton recovered an onside kick, but it was negated by an illegal blocking penalty that forced a re-kick. A few seconds later, the Canton sideline was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Little Giants ended up kicking off from their own 15.

Hartnett then ran Tribe Right FSQ Token for a 57-yard touchdown on the answering series and it was 20-6 with 1:03 still left in the first quarter.

Metamora quarterback Kaden Hartnett (8) grapples with Canton's Joseph Norton in the first half Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 in Metamora.

Canton running back LaShawn Wallace opened up the second quarter with a 7-yard TD run at 10:12 to cap a six-play, 97-yard drive to pull the Little Giants within 20-14.

But Metamora answered with a 43-yard TD run from Hartnett for 28-14 with 4:50 left in the half.

On Canton's answering series, Metamora defensive lineman Tyler Kasap batted Barnhart's pass into the air and it settled into the arms of linebacker Marshall Vasquez at midfield.

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The Redirds then ran off 10 plays and took a 34-14 lead with 17.6 seconds left in the half when Hartnett hit Kendrick Schaffrin for a 16-yard TD throw.

The Little Giants were never the same, battling steady rain and the Metamora defense in the second half.

"We are lucky to have a dual-threat quarterback like Kaden," Grebner said. "We can design plays to match what he does, and our line does a great job and we just execute well."

The Metamora Redbirds take the field against Canton on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 in Metamora. The Redbirds defeated the Little Giants 54-20.

By the numbers

Metamora QB Kaden Hartnett ran 14 times for 231 yards and four TDs and passed 5 of 8 for 51 TDs and a score. ... Redbirds RB Kameron Davis ran 17 times for 89 yards. ... The Birds got TD runs from Mark Frederick, Jaiduan Cranford and Kody Harrison, the latter running five times for 70 yards in the fourth quarter. ... Canton QB Cale Barnhart was 11 of 24 passing for 202 yards and a touchdown. ... Little Giants RB LaShawn Wallace had 10 carries for 71 yards and two TDs. ... Metamora WR-S Broderick Schroers was injured in front of the Redbirds bench on a kickoff late in the first quarter. He was removed from the field by stretcher, with his lower leg in an air splint. ... Metamora's Frederick limped off the field after a 6-yard carry in the third quarter and did not return.

Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers Bradley men's basketball, the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for He can be reached at 686-3206 or Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.

This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Football family: Metamora coach knew his QB nephew would be special