HUMBOLDT — Caden Matson is a student of the game.
He watched his dad Corey Matson coach from the sidelines as defensive coordinator for Humboldt.
For the first six games of his sophomore season he observed his teammates from the sidelines.
When he earned his chance to play last season in Week seven, he learned on the fly. He admits it wasn’t easy, but it is what helped prepare him for this season.
“I honestly just used last year as a learning year,” Matson said. “I made a lot of mistakes and I worked hard all offseason to fix them.”
When 2019 finished — that’s when the real work began.
“I owe it to my teammates, especially my receivers,” Matson said. “During the offseason they continually pushed me outside of my comfort zone, which ultimately made us both better.
“I also credit our strength and conditioning coach Trevor Dielman. I was in the best shape of my life going into the start of the season and I feel incredibly stronger and faster than I did last year.”
Last season Matson played behind senior Jacob Thurm at quarterback and as the season was coming to an end, head coach Derrick Elman started to call Matson’s number.
“We started using him more about Week 7 against Webster City,” Elman said. “His growth as a starter in the last two games was very impressive. In our last game against Perry, you could really see him start to feel comfortable.
“As soon as the season was done, we sat down as coaches and took a look at what we wanted to be as an offensive team. With Caden’s athleticism, we knew we wanted to run QB read. His ability to see the defense is what has been most impressive this year. The large majority of Caden’s completions this year are on RPO’s. Caden reads the defense and decides whether to throw, give the ball to the back, or keep it himself. His ability to run our offense, and make the right reads is what makes him special.”
Matson’s ability to figure out defenses and run Humboldt’s offense, has led the Wildcats to tie their victory total of 2019 in the first two weeks.
The junior quarterback has gotten of to one of the hottest starts in Class 3A, coming against two teams that won a combined 16 games last season.
“What I attribute to our great start is our chemistry and toughness,” Matson said. “I am incredibly proud of how mentally and physically tough this whole group is. Very rarely will you ever see anybody with their head down feeling sorry for themselves.
“And that’s a result of all of us having each others back and lifting each other up when things are tough.”
After two games Matson is in second in Class 3A and 10th in the state in all purpose yards (640). He is fourth in 3A with eight total touchdowns as the Wildcats have outscored their opponents 61-27.
“Caden is a special player. Not only is he a tremendous athlete, but he is also a hard worker and great leader,” Elman said. “He’s a four sport guy who loves to compete. I think if you’d ask him what his favorite sport is, he would probably tell you whatever sport is in season.
“Caden has spent a ton of time working and preparing to play football this year. He works very hard in the weight room, and when he’s in there, he pushes all the guys around him to get better.”
On offense Matson has thrown for 329 yards and four touchdowns. He has completed 21 of 29 attempts. On the ground he has rushed for 187 yards on 32 carries and four touchdowns, with a long of 51.
Not only has he shined on offense, but Matson is also one of the top stoppers on the Wildcat defense with 14 tackles, which is third highest on the team. He has two interceptions and has recovered a fumble. Matson is also a threat on special teams with 97 kickoff return yards and 27 returning punts.
“Caden is one of those players that’s hard to keep off the field,” Elman said. “Because of his ability to see things, he does a great job playing safety on our defense. He is able to make sure our coverages are set up correctly, and he does a great job supporting the run.
“His understanding of the game puts him in the right place, and he has already been very opportunistic, recording two picks and a fumble. He also has the ability to return the ball in the kicking game.”
Matson’s numbers may standout when looking at the Wildcats, but it’s his humble attitude and his bond with his teammates that has Humboldt playing together as one.
“Caden is a great player, but how he treats his teammates is so impressive,” Elman said. “He’s the first guy to congratulate a teammate. He was on the sideline during the JV game helping the guys on the field. He’s a coaches kid, so he’s been around the game his whole life.
“We’ve told the kids all year, with COVID, we don’t know what will happen tomorrow, and I really believe that Caden is doing just that right now. He gets to play this great game with his friends.”
It’s early in the season, but Humboldt’s competitive edge has them thirsting for more.
“We’re an incredibly competitive team,” Matson said. “Everybody hates losing and we build off of that.
“I love these guys — they’re my family and I love being able to run out with them every Friday night.”