Last year it was pretty easy for Mauricio Perez to get lost in the crowd.
Now it seems as if those in the crowd are seeking the defensive back.
Plano had 18 returning starters a season ago on a senior-laden team that was quite dominant, compiling a 7-3 record. They lost nearly all of those starters from last year’s team, though.
This fall the team looks completely different, without a single returning starter on the offensive side of the ball and just Perez and Alex Chavez coming back as starters of the defensive side of things.
Talk about a major change.
With such a transition personnel-wise, most programs would panic, but the Reapers are used to such attrition. Perez is champing at the bit to prove any naysayers wrong for a team that is used to playing beyond week nine.
“We’re just taking the younger guys under our wing and teaching the basics and fundamentals and I think we’ll get there,” Perez said. “On defense especially. I think we’re looking good. We’ve got some players and they’re starting to get it.”
Like other teams throughout the state of Illinois, Plano practiced for the first time on Monday after a busy summer of 7-on-7s.
“These opening days you’re nervous and always worried about things, but that’s typical,” Plano coach Brad Kunz said. “I was just excited to get out here with this group of kids. They have a good attitude, work hard and are unselfish. I think there’s a lot of doubt out there because we only have two returning starters, but I think this group has embraced that underdog role and wants to go out and surprise some people.”
That’s certainly the message Perez is trying to convey to his teammates.
“We don’t have a ton of chemistry yet, but I think we’ll get to that point and build it up,” Perez said. “It’s going to be an interesting year and I think we’ve got the right focus. We don’t care about last year now. We know it’s a new year and we want to make the best of it.”
Often overlooked in high schools sports are the guys who are simply biding their time to become the standout players, or simply regular contributors.
The Reapers have qualified for the playoffs in 10 of the past 11 seasons so they find a way to not only win, but to win a lot, so despite having to reload, they expect to be back there in Week 10.
“The way football is set up is that junior year can be a boring year and for a lot of players, your game is your practice,” Kunz said.“We have a lot of guys this year who did that and are now looking at starting roles. It’s a bit different but we’re excited for them to have these chances.”
Still, the most experienced guys are going to have to play a monumental role and Kunz has been really pleased with what he’s seen so far, particularly from senior leaders like Perez.
“He’s one of the hardest-working kids we have and is always looking to get better,” Kunz said. “I was able to coach him during track but he was injured so it’s good to have him back now. His attitude and ability to excel is great and hopefully the other kids can feed off of that.”
Football key dates
Monday, Aug. 7: Practice began
Friday, Aug. 25: Regular season begins
Saturday, Oct. 21: Playoff pairings announced
Friday, Oct. 27: Playoffs begin
Friday-Saturday, Nov. 24-25: State finals at Huskie Stadium, DeKalb