PERRY TOWNSHIP – Organization.
That is one main lesson Perry head coach Dan Baker learned about his first year of coaching.
Whether it was preparing for games, preparing for practices or preparing his daily routine, the second-year head coach found out the importance of being organized.
“It takes a lot more organization than you think about going into it,” Baker said. “There are a lot of different pieces moving-wise, like keeping track of kids and knowing what is going on. Every single day is a new adventure sometimes.”
Coming off a 6-4 season, Baker will once again put those organizational skills to the test in preparing for the upcoming season. Perry lost a lot of talent to graduation, and with them went a team that produced back-to-back winning seasons and an appearance in the playoffs in 2017.
A second chance at a postseason berth and Northwest Central Conference title eluded the Commodores last season, when they dropped their last three games of the season, including a heartbreaking two-point loss Riverside followed by a 21-14 loss to Sidney Lehman and then a deflating 48-25 defeat to Elgin.
“Going 6-4 is positive,” Baker said. “We started 6-1 so we didn’t finish the way we wanted to, so that is disappointing. You are going to have some games where weather didn’t help us out a couple of times, and if we have a couple plays here or a couple plays there or two or three yards, we might be 8-2 or 9-1.”
Baker is not only faced with replacing some of the best athletic talent that has played at Perry, but he is dealing with the numbers game, as 25 have shown up to participate. It is a young squad.
Ten graduated from the 22-man team including starting quarterback Louis Hoersten and all-NWCC performers Shane Overly and Nylan Cannon, who led the team in tackles and rushing, as well as second-team selection Kevin Miller.
Perry has nine returning letter winners from last season.
Leading the charge is Chazz Jackson, a triple-threat player, who was first team as a receiver, defensive back and punter. Jackson had 28 catches for more than 500 yards and five touchdowns and had five interceptions on defense. He averaged a little more than 37 yards a punt.
Also back is Brayden Owens, a second-team NWCC choice at linebacker.
On offense, Baker must replace his entire backfield, including quarterback, three-fifths of his line and all but one receiver.
In rebuilding the offensive line, Baker is encouraged by the players who he has because they saw action last season due to blowouts or injuries. Four of the players expected to start on the line saw time on the field last year.
“Now did they play together at the same time? I don’t think so,” Baker said. “But it is a lot better than saying we are replacing three starters and nobody has taken those reps.”
Two players are competing for the quarterback spot, senior Owens, who was the backup last year, and sophomore Ryan Yingst, who also was a backup and played tight end.
“We have some really good athletic kids back there, and whichever way it goes, we can’t really go wrong with who we choose,” Baker said. “It is hard to replace Louis Hoersten, but I think we have these two who can do similar things.”
Like the offense, Baker has to plug a number of holes on defense. Having Jackson helps anchor the defense, but the Commodore head coach said they will be looking at a number of different players in different positions to build the defense.