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Perrysburg football coach Matt Kregel rattles off a long list of impact players for his hard-charging Yellow Jackets this season and it all starts with his quarterback.
With junior Gus Dimmerling taking over the wheel, the Perrysburg offense has turned into a well-oiled machine. The Yellow Jackets are cruising with a five-game winning streak, outscoring the opposition 203-62.
Perrysburg can clinch at least a share of the Northern Lakes League championship with a win over Springfield on Friday. It would be the first league title since 2006 for the Yellow Jackets (6-2, 5-0 NLL).
Dimmerling has accounted for 1,764 yards of offense and 19 touchdowns. Kregel said Dimmerling, who replaced the equally dynamic Steve Slocum, has found his stride.
“We had a good feeling with Gus,” Kregel said. “He was a tailback last year and he was a punt returner. He made some big plays, and we knew he could throw. He just had to learn how to see things in a live situation. He sees the whole field.”
Both elusive and fast, Dimmerling (6-feet, 180 pounds) has rushed for 670 yards on 109 carries. He also has completed 79 of 145 passes for 1,094 yards and 11 touchdowns.
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“I always thought I could step up and fill that role,” Dimmerling said. “But mainly I wanted to come up and make my own name so that the quarterback below me wants to do the same thing.”
A player with the last name of Slocum had been at the controls for the last five years. Matt Slocum was a three-year starter at quarterback from 2008-10, and his brother Steve Slocum was a starting signal caller the last two years.
Senior tight end Nate Patterson, who leads the team with 23 catches for 285 yards, said it quickly became apparent that Dimmerling was up to the task.
“There may have been some people who may have been skeptical of [Gus]. But deep down we knew it,” Patterson said. “The first couple of games we saw him play and we all took an exhale knowing we could fall back on him.”
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Senior running back Mark Delas (6-2, 225) provides a contrast of power to Dimmerling. Delas has rushed for 369 yards on 63 carries and has eight touchdowns.
“I had no doubt that Gus would be great. He's a great baseball player and great athlete,” said Delas, who has an offer to play baseball at the University of Toledo. “He's making a name for himself.”
Perrysburg ends the regular season against the Blue Devils (4-4) and rival Maumee (2-6). The Yellow Jackets are ranked No. 6 in Region 4 of Division II. The top eight in each region earn a playoff berth.
“We are very complete on both sides of the ball,” Kregel said. “We knew if we go uptempo and execute, we can score in bunches and really stress people. If we go into the playoffs we have a good chance.”
It would be the third time Perrysburg has qualified for the playoffs, and all have come under Kregel, who has a 56-24 record in eight seasons. The Yellow Jackets have yet to win a postseason game. They lost 28-11 last season to Avon.
“We want to get into the postseason and we want to make a dent and do some damage,” Dimmerling said.
Kregel said there are a lot of components to the offense's success. He said Delas finally recovered from a shoulder injury and Dimmerling found his confidence. Patterson, who will play at Miami (Ohio), also has stepped up.
“Things really started to go offensively,” he said. “When you have to defend those two guys, receivers get open. We have the best tight end around. And our offensive line has really matured.”
The big offensive line is anchored by junior center Stephen Poll (6-1, 190) with senior Luke Adams (6-6, 26) at right guard and sophomore Chaz Westfall (6-3, 225) at left guard. The left tackle is junior Cale Bonner (6-3, 285), while junior Huan Liang (6-3, 230) and senior Aaron Steele (6-3, 245) split time at right tackle.
“You can be good skill-wise, but you can't run your whole offense unless you can pass protect and move people on the offensive line,” said Kregel, who was a three-year starter at offensive tackle at Bowling Green State University.
“Now we're moving people and running the ball.”
Delas said the differing styles of the running backs keeps teams off balance.
“It helps because no team gets used to tackling one guy,” Delas said “He's quick and elusive, and I'm kind of a big bulldozer.”
Delas is just now getting back to 100 percent after separating his shoulder in the season opener. He missed most of that game and was out for the next two contests.
Junior wide receiver Seth Durham has 13 catches for 261 yards. He has set a school record with nine career interceptions (five this season) as a defensive back.
Kregel said senior defensive tackle J.P. Newton is the heart and soul of the defensive line and has 41 tackles. Newton placed third at the Division I state wrestling tournament last year and recently committed to wrestle at Ohio State.
“He's a wrestler, and he chases people down, and he gives offensive lines fits because he's so quick and plays so low. And he does not get tired,” Kregel said.
Senior Matt Mesker is the team's leading tackler with 60. The safety/linebacker also has an interception and fumble recovery.
Defensive ends Kadin Llewellyn, Kyle Recker, and Zach Warner have rotated. Delas has 45 tackles at linebacker, while defensive tackle Westfall has 53 stops.
“We went into this with high expectations,” Kregel said. “But the early schedule was a grinder.”
Perrysburg lost two of its first three nonleague games, falling to Central Catholic and Whitmer.
“Nobody likes to lose. But I think it made us tougher and prepared us,” Kregel said.
Patterson said the early setbacks gave the team “a lot of motivation.”
“On film we saw what we had to fix and most of it was just mental technique,” he said. “We saw we could get after people. We took off from there.”
A surge in the second half enabled Perrysburg to secure the team's biggest win of the season, a 16-13 victory Oct. 4 over Southview. The Jackets knocked off Napoleon 27-14 on Sept. 27.
“Both were huge wins. That was when we realized we could be pretty good if we executed,” Kregel said.
Added Dimmerling: “Winning the NLL would mean a lot. We want to be one of the best teams in school history. But we're just taking it one week at a time.”
The Jackets have been on the cusp of winning an NLL title and a playoff game the last few seasons.
“We've been a close second [in the NLL] and we didn't pull it off. There is a sense of urgency to go out and clinch at least as share [on Friday],” Kregel said. “The idea is to expect to get into [the playoffs] every year and then we need to beat a team once we get there.”