Jermaine Jones, Lucas Terveer and J.P. Neisewander might not be household names to the average high school football fan in the Sauk Valley.
Within the Newman football ranks, however, they have key roles – just not under the Friday night lights or in the heat of battle on a playoff Saturday afternoon.
Jones, Terveer and Neisewander are members of the Newman scout team, whose job is to learn the ins and outs of the Comets' opponent on a given week. This week, they're replicating the schemes run by the Wilmington Wildcats, who Newman will take on Saturday afternoon in a Class 3A quarterfinal.
"It's so valuable for our starters, because those are the kids that are going to give us the best look at what the opposition does," Newman coach Mike Papoccia said.
Papoccia and the rest of the coaching staff spend Mondays breaking down an opponent, and then on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, it's up to the scout team to execute their plays, both offensively and defensively, against the Newman starters. Papoccia estimated at least half of the practice time Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday is spent running scout team offense and defense.
"Usually the first couple of days are learning the other team's plays," Terveer said. "That third day, you try to execute the best you can to give the defense the best look."
Terveer had a good chance to be the Comets' starting quarterback this season, until a broken right fibula suffered in the regional championship basketball game against Erie this past Feb. 24 set him back. He missed a good portion of the offseason work, and A.J. Sharp, a junior, has been the team's starter for much of the season.
"I still felt like I could compete for the job," Terveer said, "but once the season came around and we found out who the starters were and I found my spot on the scout team, I knew it was my job to help the team there. I'd rather be the starting quarterback, but if I'm not, I've got to do my part on the scout team."
The selfless attitude is one that permeates its way through the scout teams.
"It doesn't bother me," said Jones, who is often the opposing team's top running threat. "This is my second year playing football, so I don't have much experience. The scout team is a big plus for me. That's where I shine."
"I've kind of made the scout team my home," said Neisewander, who captains the scout team defense and works closely with assistant coach Andy Accardi in executing schemes.
Papoccia has ample bodies to choose from for his scout teams, with an additional 15 sophomores called up for the playoffs, along with freshman speedster Brady Rude. He has pre-set scout teams for the playoffs, but in the regular season, it was basically first-come, first-served.
"During the year, we just use it as, 'OK, who wants to play?' " Papoccia said. "We need 11 guys, so let's see which 11 guys want to come and let's see who wants to sit around and watch. It's invaluable to us to see who's frothing at the bit to try and get some playing time."
Four current Newman starters (linebacker Mac Olson, running back Jake Snow, noseguard Michael Ely and right guard Jacob Monier) are former scout teamers who worked their way into the starting lineup, either via injuries suffered by teammates or their own superior play. Either way, they're starting now.
"If you're not a starter, you have to be ready," Papoccia said. "If a kid goes down, you have to be ready to play. You've got to know what you're doing, and you've got to be physically and mentally ready to go. Playing on the scout team gets you ready both ways."
Neisewander is realistic about his situation. He's a junior linebacker playing behind seniors Brian Bahrs and Kyle Moore, two of the top players in the area. Instead of sulking, he's embracing the opportunity.
"It's a great year to learn, and I knew that coming in," Neisewander said. "We always hope to start, but we're not so worried about it if we don't."
That's music to the ears of Papoccia, who spent the early portion of Tuesday's practice praising the work turned in by his scout teams while finding plenty of things for his starting units to improve on.
"They earn their stripes," Papoccia said. "I'm sure they get beat up a little sometimes, but that's part of it. You either fight back or you're going to get buried. The kids learn what football's about playing those positions."
When: 1 p.m. Friday
Where: Wilmington High School
Radio: 102.7 FM, 1240 AM
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