The Bluejays are betting they’ll score a winning season

: Cesar J ToledoSports

You won’t find these kids using what’s left of their summer texting friends, playing video games, or just hanging out. They can be seen on a football field catching, throwing, tackling and running. However, their use fills a purpose; to be more than just an average football team.

The Perry High School Bluejays team is on a mission to finally get over the hump and be able to pull out those close games, while improving on last year’s 3-6 record. Fifth year coach Jason Olenjniczak has marveled at how poised his players are at practice.

“I do think this off-season the level of commitment and level of competition that we’ve had over the last three to four months has been better than it has been in the last few years,” he said. “The kids really are working hard and hopefully it pays off because that’s one of the lessons we like to take from this whole thing is work hard and it’ll pay off.”

The Jays have their work cut out for them as they are looking to replace last year’s all-around player senior Will Whiton. Whiton, who played a number of positions including quarterback, has since graduated and is playing defensive back for the South Dakota State Jack Rabbits. Whiton’s successor is senior Ryan Rathje who is ready and able to take the reigns. He brings a different style of play and the team seems to embrace it.

“I think Ryan - definitely one of his strengths - is his ability to throw the ball and see over the defenses because he is 6 ft 5 inches,” Olenjniczak said. “So the plan would be to let him drop back and throw. So it would be fun to see a team that is built around spreading the ball out giving it to different guys and there will be a lot of different people touching the ball.”

Two of those seniors that might have some catchable moments are wideouts Tavior Lucas and Marcus Meri, who both looked good during a scrimmage on August 21, against CMB (Collins-Maxwell-Baxter). Also in the mix are seniors Eli Saemisch and Jacob Thompson, who are coming off a year where both gained an enormous amount of experience. The rest of the team and the long summer practices will be tested when the Jays travel to Jefferson on October 9th to take on the school’s biggest rival.

“Jefferson, that is a traditional game, it’s Greene County now,” Olenjniczak said. “That is one of the longest rivalry games in the state.”

The team has already taken the field when they opened the season on August 28 against ADM (Adel Desoto Minburn). The Jays lost a squeaker to the Tigers that would’ve been anyone’s game. The team was disappointed in the result but will not let negativity engulf the locker room.

“The kids handle it well even through the three-game losing streak last year where all of the games were in question and they were tight, they never got too down,” Olenjniczak said.

Regardless of what has already transpired, the head coach and his staff are confident that this year’s team won’t take their eyes off the prize.

“Every team has different goals based on tradition and returners,” he said. “I think we are a playoff caliber team, obviously we probably have to win. Three might get you in and four gets you in. If we can be an above .500 team that would be a great year with the competition we play.”

Fall Season Schedule: All Varsity Games will start at 7 p.m. unless informed otherwise. Always check the school’s website for details.

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