‘Underdogs’ to push technique, hard play in season opener

By Colleen Kane
Tribune reporter

Jarrett House and his Metea Valley teammates have a lot of learning to do on the football field, but they’ve already perfected their coach’s art of cautious optimism.

“We all know we’re underdogs,” said House, a junior quarterback who will lead the Mustangs into their first varsity football season at home Friday against Plainfield East.

“Obviously we’re going to have our down times because a lot of people are going to be bigger than us. That’s why we have to make up for it with technique, responsibility and everybody doing their jobs. Our lines are a lot smaller than other lines, but lines are also about heart.”

House quarterbacked the Mustangs to a 6-3 sophomore record last season under new coach Ted Monken, who left St. Charles East after five years and a 36-17 record to build the program at the Aurora school. Metea Valley opened for freshmen and sophomores in 2009 and enters the new Upstate Eight Valley division this season without seniors on its team.

“I may think back on this in 10 years as the dumbest decision I ever made, but right now it’s pretty good,” said Monken, who followed a path similar to one taken by his brother, Tony, the head coach at Vernon Hills since its first varsity season in 2000. Monken said his brother has been a “tremendous resource,” sharing tips on how to handle younger players.

“The toughest thing is dealing with the youth after coaching varsity football for almost 20 years,” said Monken, who also was a defensive coordinator at Wheaton Warrenville South. “Dealing with these younger kids and getting them to rise up to our expectations, it can be frustrating at times. It’s been good for us coaches in a way that we’ve had to step back, simplify what we’re doing and be better teachers.”

House was the quarterback of the Waubonsie Valley freshman team and said he and his classmates found out midway through that year that they would be moving to the new school to inaugurate its varsity program. He recalled being a little intimidated during the first few plays at their first seven-on-seven camp at Waubonsie Valley this summer, but said the team shook its nerves after attending several more.

“It’s exciting,” junior receiver Raysean Parker said. “We’re the first group of varsity, so we get to set examples for the others. Coach always tells us to set goals for the upcoming classes.”

The Mustangs’ offense will rely on House, Parker and running backs Tre’Sean Mackey and Sam Kim. The defense is anchored by defensive ends Zach Wood and Connor Mellor and defensive backs Preston Mitchell, Alan Williams and Warren Davis.

Along with the opener against Plainfield East, which made its varsity debut in 2009, the Mustangs players said they have two games circled on their calendars. They play District 204 rivals Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley in Weeks 5 and 6.

“With the size of the schools (in the Upstate Eight), it’s going to be a tremendous challenge” Monken said. “For me to sit here and say we have a chance to beat anybody would be overstepping my bounds.
“Everybody out there has seniors, and we don’t. We want to play sound, fundamental, good football and try to find a way to be in it in the fourth quarter and maybe steal one.”

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