PLAINFIELD – Plainfield East has identified the enemy – it’s the Bengals.
That’s because East has made the Class 7A football playoffs the past two seasons. Only twice in District 202 history has a school reached the state playoffs three straight seasons.
It’s a winning culture that’s been established by coach Mike Romeli, entering his sixth season.
“We’ve built a winning culture, an expectation, we’ve gotten after it in the weight room, we’re physical and talented,” Romeli said. “We need guys to step up. Who’s up next? You have to perform at the same level or higher than the guy in front of you.”
Those words hit home for the 2015 Bengals, who are young, hungry, talented and inexperienced.
“We’ve got a lot of seniors this year who played sparingly as juniors behind a lot of seniors last year,” Romeli said of the Bengals, who return six starters. “We expect them to step into bigger roles and be stars this year.”
“The team is looking great, working hard, meshing together and we’re all very excited for the season,” junior running back/defensive back Troy Mayon said. “Everyone is trying to do great things this year.”
East will be anchored by three returning offensive lineman and two returning defensive backs. Leading the offensive line are the returnees – tight end Dylan Koch and offensive linemen Lemond Singleton (6-foot-4, 285 pounds), Isaiah Bryant (6-0, 220) and Solomon Kamara (6-3, 270).
“We have three seniors back on the offensive line and that certainly helps,” Romeli said. “We’re working diligently with the rest of the guys to get them ready to go when we start the season.”
Their job is simple – give quarterback Matt Mazurkiewicz time to run the offense. The senior attempted three passes as a reserve a season ago.
Assisting at the skilled positions are Mayon, tight end Dylan Cook and receivers Jalen Hutt and Jake Schram. All four are expected to play both sides of the ball.
“We expect those guys to have a big year on both sides of the ball,” Romeli said. “Between those guys, we should be good at the skilled positions.”
“We have to execute our plays and do our jobs every Friday to put us in position to win,” Mayon said.
The defense was hit hard by graduation losses. Only three players with experience return.
“We lost a lot on defense,” Romeli said. “We lost eight starters, so we return three guys. But, we have some guys who sat behind seniors last year who are working hard at their positions. There’s talent and there are some positions that are still open.”
Among those expected to lead the way are senior defensive backs Donald Manning, Jarvis Carter and T.J. Alexander.
Steffan Veart is coming off ACL surgery and expected to bolster the linebacking unit. Romeli also is expecting big things from seniors Kevon Floyd and David Salazar and sophomores Matthew Pratscher and Billy Pierce.
“We have a lot of older guys mentoring the younger guys and helping them develop as players and students,” Mayon said. “Everyone is really helping each other out. We’re going to have great success.”
In the Southwest Prairie Conference, perennial champion Oswego again is the team to beat. However, the SPC qualified three teams for the playoffs last year.
“It’s a race to five (league wins),” Romeli said. “Most of the teams in our league who finish 5-4 make the playoffs, so it’s a race to five wins.”
“We’re starting to become a winning program,” Mayon said. “We have some big shoes to fill after making the playoffs the last two seasons. We’re trying to do it again and aim higher and go further than any team before. We just have to take it one week at a time.”
BENGALS AT A GLANCE
2014 record: 7-3, 5-2 in Southwest Prairie
Coach: Mike Romeli
Classification enrollment: 2,106 (probable class 7A)
Offensive coordinator: Adam O’Reel
Defensive coordinator: Nick Curby
Returning offensive starters: TE Dylan Koch, OL Lemond Singleton, OL Isaiah Bryant, OL Solomon Kamara.
Returning defensive starters: DE Donald Manning, DB Jarvis Carter, DB T.J. Alexander.
August: 28 – Rich Central, 7 p.m.
September: 4 – at West Aurora, 7:30 p.m.; 11 – Plainfield South, 7 p.m.; 18 – at Oswego East, 7 p.m.; 25 – Plainfield North, 7 p.m.
October: 2 – at Minooka, 7:30 p.m.; 9 – at Oswego, 7 p.m.; 16 – Romeoville, 7 p.m.; 23 – at Plainfield Central, 7 p.m.