Perry football returns eager for second chances

Sean Cordy, Correspondent
Special to the Chief
The Perry football team runs a play during the Fall Kickoff on Friday, Aug. 20.

Bluejays football has already started to look different than in years past. Rather than play their annual scrimmage against each other, head coach Bryce Pierce brought Woodward-Granger in to get the team even more acclimated to game-action. 

With most of the team returning from last season, Pierce hopes all the small changes leading up to this year will show up on game days as well.

Team Growth

In his second year under the mic for Perry, Pierce said one of the greatest improvements this season has been the relationships grown while walking the halls every day as a teacher where players could get to know and trust him more.

"Kids were able to know me better and my coaching approach, and I got to know them better and how they best responded to coaching," Pierce said.

The Perry football team gets set to scrimmage Woodward-Granger during the Fall Kickoff on Friday, Aug. 20.

In turn, Pierce said he and his coaching staff have made adjustments that will better serve the still relatively green roster. The schemes brought in by Pierce's ambitions in Year 1 still needed to be ironed out as the team went 0-8 and struggled to move the ball into enemy territory.

"We decided to try to simplify some schemes for our kids while also maintaining the ability to mix it up on opponents this year. We feel as if our efficiency so far has been better than where we were a year ago and are excited to add new ideas and concepts as the season progresses."

Along with hoping to produce more points than in 2020, Pierce said he hopes to see the team keep 50-60 players through the season, "have better accountability, and produce responsible and respectful young men."

Returning Talent

The Perry football team runs a play during the Fall Kickoff on Friday, Aug. 20.

Perry is in a position few programs can boast. While most teams experience at least some player turnover, the Bluejays bring back virtually the entire team. In fact, they bring back 186 of 187 carries and return every passing target.

The quarterback room brings back seniors Jeremiah Baker and Jeremiah Cregeen. Both were put under great duress in the pocket, leaving their passer rating in the lower percentile, and forcing them to run more than pass. Baker had 54 carries compared to 42 pass attempts. Cregeen ran 30 times against 14 passes. Each would have had more flattering rushing yardage totals if not for sacks counting against them as well. 

Cayden Widen returns at wide receiver with eight receptions for 32 yards. One of the team's most athletic players, he was utilized as a gadget player and hopes to change the pace again this year. 

Lining up in the backfield, senior Abe Ruiz returns as the team's leading rusher with 85 yards on 61 attempts. He's always flashed in practice, but in games, was largely consumed while searching for running lanes. With most of the offensive line rotation returning, those struggles may be alleviated.

Perry football players tackle a Woodward-Granger player during the Fall Kickoff on Friday, Aug. 20 in Perry.

Opponents

While the team largely remains the same, the schedule certainly has changed and gives some breathing room to focus on the team rather than its opponents.

Pierce said one change from last year will be how the team preps for each game. Rather than scouting teams, they will place more emphasis on, "How do we get better each week?"

The last team before the cutoff to play in Class 2A, Perry plays in 3A District 6 this season. As a whole, Perry's new nine-game schedule held a winning percentage of 43 last year and a three-season average of 49 percent. By comparison, their opponents had a winning record of 55 percent in 2020.

Among the greatest opportunities for Perry, the Bluejays host an inexperienced Des Moines Hoover team that played just one game last year due to COVID. The Bluejays will also host Boone, a winless team last year that lost a generational defensive player and two rotating QBs. Perry will also travel to take on a one-win Clarke team in Class 2A competition.

The Perry football team runs a play during the Fall Kickoff on Friday, Aug. 20 in Perry.