Comets in pursuit of a state championship, won’t accept less

Photo by Shawn Long REED-CUSTER’S Ty Zier locks up with his teammate during a defensive line drill on Monday.

Shawn Long
Sports Writer

by shawn long Sports writer The football Comets are in pursuit of a Class 3A state championship. Last year, they got an appetizer getting to the postseason. This year, they want the whole steak dinner that is a state title. The Comets, who finished 10-2, had the best overall season any Comet team has ever had as they made it to the quarterfinals before falling in the last 19 seconds of the game to Byron. They’ve got the pieces for a state championship this year and if they do see that same Byron team or any other team, they’ll be ready. “The good news is we do have a lot of those guys back,” said Reed-Custer coach Gavin Johnston. “They’re hungry for it and to do the same thing we did last year would be a disappointment for this group of kids that have. It took a little bit of time for us as coaches--the kids believed it the whole time but it took a little bit of time for us as a community. We won the first game and us coaches are like, ‘Are we that good?’ We won that next game against Arcola in a game where we both put up 150 points, we’re like , Ahh, they’re a 1A team--I don’t know what is going on. Then, the way we played the games the rest of the way just kind of built the momentum. It took us a little bit of time to realize what exactly we had on our hands, and that’s just something different going into this year.” The Comets are first in pursuit of a big upset win over Wilmington. That’s step one. “We want to win the conference--it’s something that we didn’t do and to do that, we know we have to beat Wilmington. The other thing is we have to get past the quarterfinals so I don’t think we’d be satisfied with one more win so those are some big goals to have but that’s really the only way that you top it.” “I don’t see how we would want anything other than a state championship but we have to keep things in perspective. We play in a really tough conference and we kind of snuck up on some teams last year. We’re not going to have that luxury this year. Once we get to the playoffs, we’re saying 14-0 but we realize that doesn’t just happen by accident. It’s a long season and there’s a big goal we want to make sure we accomplish and that’s winning the conference as well.” The Illinois Central Eight Conference is one of toughest conferences in the state. Johnston knows every game in it will be a grind. Any team can win on any given day. “Every week you have to come ready to play. A team that could go 5-4 in our conference can easily go 7-2 or 8-1 in any other conference. Last year we had plenty of playoff points because our conference games and our non conference games the first two weeks pretty much took care of business.” “A lot of our conference teams were 2-0 going into the conference season so we have really good coaches in our conference as well and obviously, we’ve got a team five minutes from us that has won 19 straight games and hasn’t lost since the pandemic hit. There’s a reason that we have so much success and a lot of times Coal City and Wilmington, and what they have brought to our conference.” The Comets will start with Elmwood Park (8/26) and Arcola (9/2), and then it’s right into conference play against Lisle on Sept. 9. They’ll see Manteno for Homecoming on Sept. 16 before running into two big bruisers Peotone (9/23) and Wilmington (9/30). Then, it’s a home game against Streator on Oct. 7 before they head to Coal City on Oct. 14. They’ll host Herscher before the playoffs begin on Oct. 28. “It’s nice we’ll be at home this year against Wilmington and it’s a tough place to play but this year we have to go to Coal City which is obviously a tough place to play as well.” Reed-Custer is stacked up front with All-State returner at guard Kody Marscher and a returning All-Conference right tackle Gunnar Berg. “It’s nice to have those two coming back. We do have to replace three guys up front. They’ll both be in the fourth year starting for us. They came up and they played as freshmen so they have the experience.” Filling in at the other three spots of the offensive line will be Gavin Bruciak, and Matt Gerreaux. As for the other spot, there’s a position battle going on for it between Blake Clement, Ty Zier and others. “Gavin could have probably started last year but we kept him more of a defensive player because we felt we were good with what we had. Matt Gerreaux dressed up for us last year but he played primarily the fresh/soph games. Blake Clement is a guy who is battling Ty Zier. There are multiple different people right now. It’s kind of nice to see the competition at practice and how they’ve responded to all that. It’s good to have competition. Under center will be returning All-Conference quarterback Jake McPherson, who can do everything. He showed it last year when he threw for 1,124 yards, rushed for 847 yards and accounted for 30 total touchdowns. “He’s in his third year starting. He ran for over 800 yards last year, threw for 22 touchdowns--had two or three interceptions. I mean, very very proficient and really we were just scratching the surface with how Jake can run. He ran very well in some big games. Wilmington and Coal City games, and then towards the end of the year, he actually rolled up his ankle or else he probably would have been a 1,000 yard rusher as well as a 1,000-yard passer last year. Having him back, he’s 215 pounds as well, he’s 6-2 and he can square his shoulders--get the tough yards when needed to.” Along with Jake, who is a key piece to this offense, speed guys like Brandon Moorman and Connor Esparza will lead the receiving core. Jace Christian and Josh Bohac will split time in the backfield. Both were a big part to their success whether it was on the offense or the defensive side of the ball. Christian had 367 yards on the ground scoring 10 touchdowns while Bohac ran for 120 with two touchdowns. “The dynamic mantra that we have in our backfield is we have so many guys who can carry the ball. Brandon Moorman can carry it, Peyton Bradley can carry it, Rex Pfeiffer can carry it, Lucas Foote will go back there and carry it. Jace and Josh Bo--we have a lot of guys who we can put in the backfield and be able to get the ball in their hands. Their do-it-all, hybrid player Lucas Foote is also returning. Foote burst onto the scene last season when he would score six touchdowns in the first three game before succumbing to an injury. “The kids has played four quarters of varsity football and he has scored six touchdowns so it’s getting a really good player back to our team.The way he scored those touchdowns too. He a punt return for a touchdown, a receiving touchdown, a rushing touchdown as a running back. He had a rushing touchdown as a quarterback--he had an interception return for a touchdown--we’re really looking forward to see what he can bring to our team.” The Comets hope they don’t get bit by the injury bug like they did last year. “We couldn’t have had any worse luck with our injuries. We lose a Jacob Pfeiffer who was a returning All-Conference inside backer last year, Footey, Eric Housman played on one knee basically the whole year and with (Dylan) Garrelts going down the last game, we had a lot of injuries so we’re hoping--we’re trying not to use that word too much around here because we feel like we met our quota last year. Johnston is excited to see what his speed players can do on their new turf. “That’s something we noticed this summer. We tried to schedule so many places to go this summer that had a turf field. We went to Morris, we went down to Mt. Zion, Bradley Bourbonnais because ours was still being installed and we’re like, ‘he looks quick on turf, he looks good on turf’. We’re starting to notice that quite a bit more. Junior Peyton Bradley, who was the varsity back-up quarterback last year. He was also involved in the offense in a couple different ways. “A big one will be Peyton Bradley. He came up last year and probably started the last five games for us. I think we brought him in during the Wilmington game defensively until we realized how good he was offensively. He’ll be a nice centerpiece for us offensively and defensively. Another junior who got some playing time last year, Matt Gerreaux will be back up to fill a spot on the line. “He’s done a really good job stepping up as a linemen. We’re hoping that he can wind up playing both ways for us.” Wesley Shats, who is a senior, will be another weapon Johnston can use on both sides of the ball. Shats is 6-6 so he has some length and uses his basketball skills to go get the ball. He’ll fill in where Eddie Gad was. “He’s got a 6-6 frame and he great success with basketball and we’re starting to see that carry over into the football season. His confidence is kind of building up.” Johnston is also excited to see what Travis Bohac, Josh’s brother, can do. “He’s one more piece that’s going to help us. He’s been a really nice surprise defensively of how much he wants it is Travis Bohac. He has done a really good job defensively for us. He’s not afraid of contact and he’s been playing like one of our better DBs all summer. Several offensive players are going to playing both ways. Johnston adds they’re happy to have Gavin Bruciak back patrolling the defensive line. Along with him, Christian will be back at linebacker while Bohac will be at his corner spot. Christian was their leading tackler with 98 tackles, three sacks, seven tackles for a loss and an interception while Bruciak had 22 tackles with 2.5 TFLs. Bohac led the team with four interceptions. Johnston, who is in his fifth year as coach of the Comets, will have a lot of the same coaches back to help him coach this year and he wouldn’t have it any other way with any other coaches. They mesh so well and have for years. “The nice thing is we’re a pretty close group of guys. Me and coach (Nick) Klein play golf all the time. It’s not on the field, we talk to each other quite a bit outside of football as well. Having guys who have been here for a while you kind of understand what the expectation is and what I expect from them. We’ve been running the same offense for years now and it’s nice. I know if we run an offensive session at practice, I know it’s going to be done the right way because I know coach Klein is and they know how I am. It’s one of those chemistry things like what the senior class has right now. That’s how we feel as well.”