Over the last three full seasons, the La Salle-Peru football team has gone 5-4 in the regular season to qualify for the playoffs, then suffered lopsided losses in the first round to Rochester in 2019 then Morris in each of the last two.
This season, the Cavaliers are hoping to take the next step and end a two-decade playoff-win drought that dates back to the 2003 semifinal team.
“We’re really pushing for a home playoff game,” senior lineman Adam Lane said. “We haven’t had one of those in decades now. We want to win some playoff games, because we haven’t done that since 2003.
“It would mean everything, because we’ve been practicing since our freshman year, busting as hard as we can just to win a playoff game. That’s what we’ve been working for.”
In hopes of accomplishing that goal, the Cavaliers are moving away from the triple-option offense they’ve used for the last six seasons and transitioning to a more balanced attack while continuing to rely on a stingy defense.
“We’re learning it still,” senior quarterback Brendan Boudreau. “I think we’ll be ready before games. We’ve gotten better. We had all summer to prepare for it. Everyone should be pretty familiar with it now, but we’re still learning.
“(We’re still working on) just knowing the formations and what to do in the formations, like the routes we run.”
The Cavs are moving to a gap scheme offense that’s designed to get the ball to their playmakers in space.
“I think our biggest strength is speed,” Boudreau said. “(We can use that to our advantage by) spreading people out, getting the ball into the fast players’ hands.”
Boudreau is back for his second year as the team’s starting quarterback after running for five touchdowns last season and throwing for two.
Noah Zebron, Mikey Hartman and Kaleb Kennedy will be the team’s receivers, while Cordell Wheatley, Josh Senica and Brady Backes will see time at tight end.
“The No. 1 thing is making sure they catch the ball, and after that, they’re speedy kids who can make big plays,” L-P coach Jose Medina said. “What we’ve been preaching to the kids is we changed the offense for a reason: to get the ball out in space and make people miss and create big plays.”
Brody Romagnoli returns at running back after getting some carries last fall, while Brevyn Vogel also will get some carries. Mason Pagrcic and Josh Bickford will play H-back.
Up front, senior Ty Terzick returns at center, and classmate Adam Lane is back at tackle. Nolan Glynn and Brock Terzick will get time at tackle, while juniors Andy Medina and Richie Santiago will play guard.
“We’re going to be a lot stronger this year,” Lane said. “We are a more balanced offense. We have some quick guys on this team. They’ve been really working hard, and we’re going to try to get the ball in their hands to make some plays. The O-line is going to have to block and make some holes.”
After averaging 19.3 points per game last season, the Cavaliers are looking to significantly increase that output in 2023.
“That’s the goal,” Medina said. “We’re trying to keep the defense off the field a little bit and make sure we get some points on the board as well.”
By improving offensively, the Cavs look to help a defensive unit that’s been the team’s strength in recent years. Last season, the Cavs allowed 21.8 points per game and held five opponents to two touchdowns or less.
“We’re going to be young on the back end, but up front we have some size and we have some decent speed,” Jose Medina said. “We preach to our kids we want to play aggressive and play fast. I think we can do some good things still.”
The strength of the defense is the linebacking corps, where Andy Medina returns on the outside and Danny Beavers is back on the inside. Senica will play outside linebacker, while Bickford will be the other inside linebacker.
The Cavs have a new starting defensive line with Ty Terzick and Santiago getting time at nose guard; Glynn and Landon Quiles playing defensive end. Santiago did play on the line last year, while Glynn switches from linebacker.
“Nolan made the transition to play defensive line this year, and I think he’s going to help strengthen that line for us,” Jose Medina said. “He’s quick. He’s strong. He’s got a big frame.”
In the secondary, Boudreau will play safety, Kennedy returns at cornerback, and Zebron and Hartman will play the other corner spot.
“If other teams want to score, they have to drive down the field slowly. We’re not giving up any big plays this year,” Kennedy said. “That’s what always beats us is big plays.
“(To limit big plays) we just have to play our role. If everybody trusts each other and does their job, it’s going to make the other team’s offense struggle a lot.”
On special teams,, Seth Adams returns as the team’s kicker after making 18 of 22 extra points and making all four of his field-goal attempts last season, including a pair of 43-yarders. He’ll also do some punting along with Zack Pocivasek. Romagnoli and Kennedy will return kicks and punts.
“(Adams) has worked hard and has dedicated his time to getting stronger, working on accuracy and consistency,” Medina said. “Seth will give us an opportunity to get points on the board.”