After a disastrous 2015 campaign, it would be understandable to believe the Perry football team would be wanting to erase as many memories of the season as possible.
The Perry coaching staff disagrees and intends to use the lessons learned in an 0-9 season to build upon, both in the “don’t do that” and the “yes, do this” categories. In keeping with that theme, all understand that huge steps forward are unlikely, so a focus has been placed on winning individual plays and making steady improvement as the season advances.
Perry was outscored, 307-69, and had trouble stopping both the run and the pass, struggling in particular with big, physical teams who shoved the ball up the middle of the defense.
That defense played well at times, but was on the field far too often because of an offense that produced only one rushing touchdown (from two yards out) in nine games (worst in Class 3A) and totaled just 610 yards (lowest in 3A) on 217 carries, a clip of only 2.8 yards per carry.
The passing attack offered little help, accumulating just 816 yards and producing only seven TDs through the air.
All of that could change this year, as the Bluejays revamp their approach, switching from a pocket-passing look to a dual-threat, hurry-up offense that worked well in the past.
Keying the change will be senior Adan Medina, who will give Perry a quarterback who can both throw when needed but is also capable of scrambling free and of handling the chores of carrying the ball on called runs.
Wyatt Halling, who was 3-for-3 for 85 yards and two scores in mop-up duty last year, will serve as the back-up but could see time if it is decided to go to the air frequently.
Mark Campos will step in at running back and will looked upon to open up passing lanes by forcing the defense to key on stopping him.
That, of course, will rely upon the offensive line generating push and opening holes. Gabe Cubillo will start at center, with Kevin Lopez and Tyler Soll returning at the guard spots. Ethan McFarland and Devon Archer the current pair most likely to nail down the two tackle spots.
The mantra of the offensive coaches is a simple one: If the Jays could succeed by turning around and handing the ball off they would, but that is unlikely to be where the attack finds its most success.
In no game on the schedule is Perry likely to have the larger line, with counters, traps, quick-hitters and misdirection a preseason focus as the coaches work to create spot mismatches and utilize a quicker tempo.
Janier Puente joins the team at tight end after choosing to play football in his final prep season. Although inexperienced, he gives the Jays a tall, athletic presence which could cause problems on medium range passes over the middle or on quick slants.
Reece Dunlap, who ran at the state track-qualifying sprinter, will be the likely choice in the slot position, with Brandon Juarez, Nic Fellom and Brandon Kenyon all seeing time as a wideout.
Puente and McFarland will begin the season at defensive end, with Lopez, Soll (27.5 tackles in 2015) and others manning the down tackle spots.
Campos and Medina had 45 and 35.5 tackles apiece, respectively, last year and will resume their roles at linebacker. Fellom (32 tackles) and Grant Eklund will also be at linebacker, with Dunlap and Manassas Martinez at corner back while Donald Chavez starts at strong safety and Juarez (30.5 tackles) at free safety.
No decision has been made at punter, an area that hurt Perry last season. The kicking job currently belongs to German Alvarenga, who has been impressive in preseason drills.
The IHSAA opted to change the playoff system in the offseason, reverting to 16 teams per class qualifying for the postseason. Class 3A is now composed of seven eight-team districts, with each champion and runner-up entering the playoffs, where they will joined to two at-large teams chosen by a points system.
Perry will play the next two seasons in District 2, where they will be joined by Ballard, Boone, DC-G, Gilbert, Greene County, Iowa Falls-Alden and Webster City.
The season will begin with a pair of games at Dewey Field, as North Polk is set to visit Friday while Nevada is Perry’s guest Sept. 2. District play begins Sept. 9 with a trip to Ballard, with Boone at Perry Sept. 16. The Jays will travel to DC-G on Sept. 23 then return home to host Gilbert for Homecoming Sept. 30. Trips to Webster City (Oct. 7) and Greene County (Oct. 14 for the 85th Cowbell Game) follow, with the regular season concluding at Dewey Field Oct. 21 when the IF-A Cadets visit. All games are slated for 7:30 p.m. starts.
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