PERRY TOWNSHIP – Perry made an historic run last year.
Not only did the Commodores post a winning season for the first time in more than a decade but made the playoffs ever in school history.
But the man who guided the team to that impressive run, Luke Taviano has moved on to take over at Delphos Jefferson and now Dan Baker is looking to continue those winning ways that were established last season.
Because Baker served as the defensive coordinator on the team, the new head coach is familiar with the personnel and with much of the coaching staff still in place he said he feels he is heading in the right direction.
“The transition has gone really good,” Baker said. “It helps knowing all the kids or at least most of them. We have had a couple of new guys come out this year. The kids have been pretty receptive for the most part so that has been helpful.”
Baker added that because of the success last year the culture of the program has changed and so have the expectations.
Obviously you would like to have success all the time,” Baker said, “ I think No. 1 is that we want everyone to graduate high school. I still think that is goal No. 1. Winning football games is football games is important and that is the reason why I am here but I try to instill in the kids that this is not the most important thing at the end of the day.”
Baker added that playing high school sports is temporary but getting a good education and succeeding in life is the top priority. Having said that Baker knows winning attracts players and builds confidence.
“We would like to continue the winning we had last year and build on it and that is also one of our goals,” Baker said. “I think the expectations are higher from coaches. I think we all expect a little bit more, I think the kids expect a little more from themselves. I think we are climbing to that ability level and that peak that we have and trying to get closer to each day one step at a time type mentality. Kids are more receptive that it is possible versus before how we get there.”
Baker has 11 returners back from last year’s playoff squad and all played a significant role in the Commodores’ success. However, Baker will still have to replace his top receivers on offense and three of their offensive linemen.
The good news for Baker is that starting quarterback Louis Hoersten and all-conference back Shane Overly are back. Other top returners back include Isaiah Davis, Khaliq Garner, Kevin Miller, Malik Waters, Martell White, Chaz Jackson and Brayden Owens.
“Realistically offensive line is all new but most have been with the program and know what they are doing,” Baker said. “Their are a lot of key parts back even technically we lost a bunch of starters.
Baker said the team is going back to more of a spread offense this season and expect the play calling to be slightly different from last season.
“We will be running the ball more so it will not be a true passing spread offense,” Baker said. “I think we have a really good group of kids and talented athletes that can do different things. We have a really good offensive line and good receivers. We have some guys that can play.”
In the early stages the defense appears to be one of the Commodores strong point and don’t expect many changes from Baker who was instrumental in the team’s defensive success last year as the defensive coordinator.
“We lost three defensive lineman and our middle linebacker and lost three of four of their defensive backs but we had a lot of guys who saw playing time,” Baker said. “We have guys that are putting in a lot of hard work and working hard to take up some of the deficiencies of the guys we have lost.”
Jackson was a second team, all-NWCC performer as a defensive back and Brayden Owens secured all-second team NWC C honors at the linebacker spot. Overly was also recognized as a second team, all-NWCC performer for his work on the defensive line.
Baker expects Cole Boroff, Nylan Cannon, Rashad Davis, Evan McDonnell and Cameron Patrick to contribute as well as sophomores Devares Glenn and Dyonte Parker.
One area Baker would like to shore up is the amount of penalties committed by the Commodores. Several key penalties hurt Perry and Baker added that if these can be avoided it will help Perry.