Any honest discussion of the 2015 Perry football season has to begin with the ugly fact that the team was winless in nine games.
An 0-9 record will, of course, bring about many doubts and questions and the statistics from such a season will, naturally, reflect the team mark, but that does not mean there were not bright spots and reasons for optimism going forward.
“I thought we played hard for the most part, and that is not easy to do when you are having the kind of year we had,” Bluejay head coach Jason Olejniczak said. “We had some kids you fought hard and worked hard all the way, but, of course, we needed to have more of those.”
Perry was outscored, 307-69, overall and 225-56 in Class 3A District 2 play while suffering three shutouts and never scoring more than two touchdowns in a single game.
“I thought the defense was playing pretty well in the first half of the season, and then, just as we started to be able to do some things on offense, it felt like the defense regressed a bit,” Olejniczak said. “I know that we coaches have looked at everything — from blocking, to scheming, to how practices were held — pretty much everything.
“What a lot of it comes down to is that we have to play more kids two-ways than other teams and we would simply get tired,” he added. “I was hoping at the start of the year that we would not have to rely on so many guys going both ways all the time but we simply did not have enough kids step up and show us they could fill those roles.”
A lack of any kind of a running game crippled the Bluejay offense. Perry was the only team in state with only one rushing touchdown, and were last in 3A in total yards with 610 yards on 217 rushes, an average of 2.8 yards per carry. Those numbers do not include 105 yards lost on sacks.
“We would often win the battle at the point of attack but rarely got out on the linebackers, rarely got the kind of second-level blocks that turn three or four-yard runs into 10 or 12-yard runs,” Olejniczak said. “Teams knew this and just packed the box and came right at us defensively and we could not handle it. We needed to be able to make them pay for solo coverage on the outside but missed too many deep balls to pull them out of cover-zero and make the defense back off the line somewhat.”
The result were consistent offensive possessions of three-and-out or perhaps just one or two first downs, which resulted in the defense — which always expends more energy — being forced onto the field without a chance to rest and recover.
“We did not go a good job of playing defense downhill, of going after the offense and taking the attack to them,” Olejniczak said. “That comes from attitude and wanting to be a bit ornery, and we needed more of that.”
One issue out of the control of the coaching staff is — to be perfectly honest — a lack of size from which to build. Perry simply does not have a big swath of 6-foot, 250-pound students wandering the halls.
“You have to have some size, have to have some bulk, especially along the offensive line where you are trying to physically move people,” Olejniczak stated. “You can make up for some of that with devotion in the weight room, with confidence in what you are doing, with a positive attitude. We have some of that, but need more.”
“We have some kids who will be seniors and a good number of kids who were freshmen and sophomores this year that could develop for us,” the coach continued. “We usually see a lot of effort in the weight room in the winter, but then it drops off, and we cannot have that happen, and need to get some of kids out for football who didn’t come out this year.”
Senior Ryan Rathje was 96-176-7 for 731 yards and five touchdowns passing, with the two other scores coming in mop-up time from reserve Wyatt Halling, who was 3-of-3 for 85 yards.
“Ryan showed some toughness this year and stood in there even when he was taking some shots,” Olejniczak said. “He completed almost 55 percent of his passes, and yes, a lot of that was short stuff, but I will take that percentage from a high school quarterback any time.”
Taviar Lucas caught 46 passes for 332 yards (7.2 ypc), mostly on swing passes. His tipped-pass 50 yard TD (Lucas had three snags for scores) against Boone was the only Perry offensive play to go for more than 40 yards.
Jacob Thompson (16-167, 1 TD), Marcus Meri (12-140), Adan Medina (9-84, 1 TD), Eli Saemisch (10-50) and Solomon Pierce (2-17, 2 TDs) led the receiving corps.
Saemisch (88-350), Lucas (44-180, 1 TD) and Gage Welch (38-154) led the ground attack.
The defense came away with eight interceptions (Thompson returned a pick 65 yards for a score against Carroll) and five fumbles (Medina returned an ADM fumble 34 yards for a TD).
Tackle leaders were Joe Olvera (52.5), Pierce (50.5), Marcus Campos (45), Saemisch (43), Kade VanKirk (38), Medina (35.5) and Nic Fellom (32), who tallied four sacks and four tackles for a loss. Pierce and Saemisch had eight TFL’s apiece, with Campos making four and Olvera three.
The off-season will see several changes, none of them in Perry’s control. The 2016 campaign will see each class reduced in the number of playoff qualifiers from 32 to 16, with new district assignments expected in late January or early February.