Sterling is off to another quick start, winning its first three games of the season.
That 3-0 record comes after the Golden Warriors got off to a quick start in each of those three games. So far this year, the Warriors have outscored teams 56-0 in the first quarter.
That dominance has often extended into the second quarter as well. The Golden Warriors have allowed just one touchdown in the second quarter this year, that in the final minute before halftime of the Sycamore game in Week 1.
“It’s a mentality thing,” senior lineman Pedro Rodriguez said. “It’s how we prepare for games in-week. Our guys give us good looks every week in prep, and we come out and just show up.”
Junior wide receiver Alek Duran said the team’s chemistry has played a big part in getting off to those quick starts.
“We’re close, so we get each other hyped,” he said. “We know the stakes. We get each other ready before the game.”
Getting ready before the game includes setting the right mindset, from listening to coaches to listening to each other, reminding each other of their responsibilities out on the field.
Then, there’s the music to get the players hyped up, which Rodriguez said helps him flip a switch into game mode.
“Before, usually at practice, I’m a quiet guy,” he said. “But in games, I get really loud.”
The quick starts have been boosted by touchdowns on the opening kickoffs the first 2 weeks of the season, with Nyrel Sullivan breaking off a 90-yard return Week 1 against Sycamore, and Jayden Villegas matching that Week 2 against Pekin.
“When you’re able to pop something like that and you get out early, that’s a huge momentum thing right off the get-go,” Sterling coach Jon Schlemmer said. “That’s been really big for us so far.”
Getting off to a good start is something the Sterling coaches have been preaching to the players.
“Then you’re kind of in that driver’s seat,” Schlemmer said. “You can bring some more pressure defensively. Offensively, you can kind of open up and do some things that you feel you can do well.”
In the latest AP Class 5A poll, the Golden Warriors are sitting at No. 2 and receiving a pair of first-place votes.
“We ignore that,” Rodriguez said. “The only expectations we have are the ones we have for each other.”
Duran said the attention the Golden Warriors are now getting is kind of exciting, but they will keep that in the backs of their minds while they focus on the more immediate goals.
Schlemmer still wants to see the team clean up some things with its tempo on offense and better tackling on defense, but he is still happy with the progress he’s seen, even if he thinks he can see more.
“I’d be kind of a dummy if I told them we hadn’t played good, because we have,” Schlemmer said, “but these kids’ goals are pretty high, and if we want to do the things that they talk about and [where] our program wants to go, then we have a lot to clean up, we have a lot to get better at.”
The next test will come against 3-0 LaSalle-Peru, as theWarriors kick off their NIB-12 West schedule. Sterling beat the Cavaliers 49-0 last year, though the players say this is a different L-P team.
L-P snuck past Rich East 21-20 in Week 1, but since then has put up matching 35-12 wins over Limestone and United Township.
“We think they’re going to come out up front and run the ball at us,” Duran said
The Cavaliers have worked the option into their offensive repertoire this year under first-year coach Jose Medina, and in Friday’s win over UT, rushed 52 times as a team.
“We’ve got to have a great week in practice and make sure we’re doing the little things that we preach,” Schlemmer said.
Sterling at LaSalle-Peru
When: 7:15 p.m. Friday
Where: Howard Fellows Stadium, Peru
Radio: 94.3 FM