Football: Junior achievers power Plainfield East
By Dick Goss email@example.com September 10, 2013 10:12PM
Daniel Jackson (left) and Jake Mayon are two top juniors on Plainfield East's junior-laden team. | Dick Goss~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 12, 2013 6:15AM
The way Jake Mayon sees it, Plainfield East’s 2-0 start, with wins over Metea Valley and West Aurora, continues a process that began at the end of last season.
“We won in the weight room in the offseason and won on the field in the summer,” the Bengals’ leading rusher said. “That all carries over to the season. It comes down to working hard all year.”
Teams everywhere are 2-0 and begin conference play Friday. If you can’t handle things within your conference, a 2-0 start probably does not mean much.
But at East, it does. In their four previous seasons, the Bengals were 7-29 and never won two games in a row, much less go 2-0.
“It’s refreshing,” said Bengals coach Mike Romeli, entering his fourth season. “It feels good going into conference play.”
East begins its bid in the wide-open Southwest Prairie race Friday at Oswego East (2-0).
“It’s been going great,” Bengals defensive lineman Daniel Jackson said. (Romeli calls him Daniel Bolton Jackson because he likes his middle name.) “We put in a lot of hard work, and 2-0 is the payoff so far.”
Jackson is 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, strong and quick. He plays defensive end, nose tackle and even some tight end and offensive tackle — wherever he can help.
“I feel I’m really quick off the ball,” Jackson said. “They try to get me in places where I can use most of my techniques. This season is my breakout year.”
“Daniel is very disruptive,” Romeli said. “He realized a lineman’s dream last week — he intercepted a pass.”
The Bengals already have seven picks, including two each by Omar Salazar and Donte Hartsfield.
Jackson, like Mayon, is a junior. That’s a theme with the Bengals. Nine of 11 defensive starters are non-seniors (seven juniors and two sophomores). Six juniors start on offense, including quarterback Cole Kotopka, whose brother, Jake, graduated after calling signals last fall.
“We are young,” Romeli cautioned. Mayon and Jackson don’t see that as detrimental, however.
“We have a lot of juniors playing because it’s a good class,” said Jackson, a varsity regular as a sophomore. “What we have to do is stay disciplined and work together.”
Mayon has rushed for 259 yards and three touchdowns. He averages 11.3 yards per carry and has caught three passes for 67 yards, two for touchdowns.
“I have decent speed. I see myself as an all-around back,” the 5-7, 185-pound Mayon said.
Of East’s six receivers to date, five have touchdowns. Kotopka is 21-of-42 for 379 yards and has rushed for a score.
“There’s a very different feeling this year,” Mayon said. “There are no enemies on the team, we’re all together. We (juniors) have been together since freshman year, and we fit in well with the seniors.
“We have conference to take care of first, but a main goal is to be our school’s first playoff team ever.”