PERRY TOWNSHIP — There is a lot to celebrate about Perry’s football season.
Not only did the the Commodores record their first winning season since 2006 with a 6-4 mark but Perry made the postseason for the first time in school history.
However, it is business as usual for the Commodores who prepare for their first game in week 11 against Northwest Central Conference rival Lehman Catholic (9-1) that defeated Perry in week 9 of the regular season.
Perry head coach Luke Taviano and his coaching staff are huddled in the cramped confines of his office refining the game plan.
“It has been a busy couple of days but I will take it,” Taviano said about preparing for the postseason. “Hopefully it is just as busy next week.”
Taviano said making the postseason is nice and has rallied the community around the team but he is more concerned about stopping Lehman than patting himself or his team on the back. He knows there is plenty of time for that after the season.
“We are trying to treat it as just another week,” Taviano said. “We are facing a good opponent and it gives us a head’s up on knowing what they run and what we were able to do against them and we need to do to get better against them but we tried not to disrupt our normal routine.”
While the coaches review their strategy the players hit the locker room to get some reps in before practice The weight room is the symbol of where the turnaround for this team began.
Junior Shane Overly, the team’s leading rusher, admitted that he did not expect the team to make the postseason but soon began to change his mind when he saw players showing up for weight training.
“When I saw how much people were showing up to lifting and stuff and how dedicated they became I knew we could accomplish some things,” Overly said.”
Senior Luke Floyd admitted that the win over Elgin on Friday that sent the Commodores to the playoffs did not completely register until fans and the community began to shower the players and coaches with accolades.
“After the game it really didn’t feel like anything special but as people have come up to me and said this has never been done before you start to realize you were the first ones to do it,” Floyd said.
In his fourth year on the football team, Floyd said the transition has been incredible.
“The last three years were a blur,” Floyd said. “A lot of different coaches. A lot of different faces. A lot of different offenses and a lot going on but it is definitely different this year. Us as seniors we got tired of losing. We thought we would change it this year.”
Floyd said even though the Commodores opened the season 0-3, the team started seeing results and he points to the first game against Allen East. Perry lost that game 24-14 but the players saw improvement considering last year, the Mustangs blasted the Commodores 60-21.
After getting beat by Spencerville 56-21 in week 3, Perry would reel off five straight wins to put itself in line for the playoffs. In the that five game stretch, the Commodores averaged 42.2 points a game and the defense yielded 8.8 points a contest, including two shutouts.
While the defense was getting the job done on offense, the emergence of Shane Overly at running back also proved to make a huge difference in Taviano’s offense.
Overly began the season at the tight end position but by week 3 was moved to running back and responded by nearly gaining 1,000 yards in the final seven games of the season.
Floyd said throughout the early games Taviano kept the team focused.
“He has always believed in us,” Floyd said. “We just had to believe in ourselves.”
Taviano said senior leadership played a big role in the team’s success.
“The coaches told us that in the last three games you guys (the seven seniors) are going to lead us to the playoffs and we just bought in to that and every one has played their hardest.”
Even though they stumbled against Lehman in week 9, both players and coaches said they feel they can still compete against the Cavaliers despite the lopsided 49-13 loss.
Taviano points out that one reason for the optimism is Perry entered the red zone four times and only came away with points once.
“We knew they were a tough opponent and I think it helped out that we did a lot of good things against them as much as we stubbed our toe,” Taviano said. “If we’re able to capitalize on those it would have been a whole different ballgame. The kids realize that.”
Floyd echoed his coach’s sentiment.
“We had a really bad game against them the first time and we gave them a lot of stuff but everyone does their job I think we will do better,” Floyd said.
The game against Lehman Catholic will be played 7:30 p.m. Friday at Piqua High School.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on twitter at @JoseNogueras1