There’s a football team at Centreville High that seemingly can’t be beat. It’s a team that rarely has to bother with close games, a team that couldn’t really be blamed for viewing wins more as birthrights than achievements. It’s a team with a proud tradition that no one at the school wants to see compromised.
And it’s probably not the team you’re thinking of.
The Centreville freshman football team’s record speaks for itself: 30-0 since 2010 (31-0 if they beat Robinson Thursday night, a game that ran too late for press time). They’ve won Concorde District titles each of the last three years, and they’ll make it four if everything went according to plan against Robinson Thursday night. In other words, no student currently roaming the halls at Centreville has ever lost a freshman football game.
The coaches roaming Centreville’s sidelines have also yet to endure the pang of defeat. Head coach Brian Scherer and defensive coordinator Tommy Lamb took over the freshman squad in 2010, a year after the team finished with a 2-5-1 record. Scherer and Lamb know what they’re doing, but they’ll be the first to tell you that their team’s turnaround stems as much from new influxes of talent as it does from good coaching.
“With the freshmen it’s different because every year you have a completely different group of kids,” said Scherer, who coached at Edison before joining Centreville’s program in 2005. “It’s not like the varsity where you have some of the same kids that you mix and match and you teach some kids things you don’t need to teach others. We get new kids every year.”
Scherer has spent the past eight years teaching physical education at Liberty Middle School, a feeder school that generates much of Centreville’s student body. It’s an edge on the competition that few other coaches get, as Scherer is able to identify and groom talent before it arrives to his freshman team. He and Lamb bring the Liberty kids interested in football up to Centreville in the spring for preliminary workouts introducing them to strength training and fundamentals.
“I think that’s probably the biggest thing is us getting that relationship with the kids in the spring,” Scherer said. “That kind of goes into the summer, making sure people attend in the summer and then in the fall.”
Westfield’s freshman team, one of Centreville’s victims each of the last four years, doesn’t have any teachers at the middle school level. They do, however, have a spring weight training program designed specifically for seventh- and eighth-graders. Rising ninth-graders participate in Westfield’s summer weight lifting, speed training and team camp.
This year’s battle between Westfield and Centreville was a rain-soaked slugfest that ended in a 7-0 win for the Wildcats. Most matchups between the two teams in recent years have been similarly close, except for the one that took place in 2011. That contest got way out of hand fast, as Scherer’s boys headed into halftime with a 49-0 lead.
Perhaps it was a sign of things to come. Centreville’s stars that day included AJ Turner, Charles Tutt, Xavier Nickens-Yzer and Taylor Boose, the same group that dismantled Westfield’s varsity squad, 28-0, four weeks ago. Just as Centreville’s 9-0 varsity team is a force to be reckoned with today, so was its freshman team two years ago during a memorable season that saw Turner blaze for 17 touchdowns on a mere 38 carries.
Turner’s little brother, Kobie, is an integral part of the freshman team’s newest wave. Self-described as “super slow,” Kobie is the polar opposite of his lightning-quick older brother in many ways on the football field. Whereas AJ likes to light up the scoreboard, Kobie prefers to light up ball carriers from the middle linebacker position. He’s also been filling in for an injured player at the guard position, helping pave lanes for quarterback Jameel Siler, a shifty runner who appears to be Centreville’s next big weapon.
Improved blocking from Turner and fellow guard Cormac Roe has helped Siler and running back Daniel Kuzemka spearhead an offense averaging 48 points per game the last three weeks, far better than the 22 points they averaged over the first four games.
“I think [the improved offensive production is] because we really want to protect one another,” Turner said. “If Jameel’s running the ball, we’re going to go out and block our butts off for him. We’re not just going to let him get hit, and if he does then we’re going to strive to fix it the next play.”
With 55 kids on the team, Scherer and company are dealing with a slightly smaller roster this season than in years past. Last year they had a little over 60, and Scherer recalls one season where they had more than 70.
But the size of the roster is less important than making sure each player learns to put the team above themselves. Sometimes players will show reluctance when told to fill in for an injured player at a different position, leading to reminders that the success of the team must be placed above the preferences of any one player. It’s that concept of sacrificing for the benefit of the team that Scherer says makes a lasting impact at the varsity level.
“If you can build that mentality when they get to the next level, and they have that already and that foundation is there that they’re not going to be selfish, that they’re going to do whatever it takes for the team, I think that is the most important thing that we do,” Scherer said. “Everything else can be taught at different times.”
While the freshmen can usually be seen attending varsity games every Friday, you can also spot varsity players strolling the sidelines on Thursday nights. According to Coach Lamb, older players are fond of reminding their younger peers about the tradition they need to uphold.
“They’re just as big into this so-called run as the freshmen are right now,” Lamb said.