Jacob Harrison's first snap in his first game at center last season sailed over the quarterback. Those occurrences are now few and far between.
The Dixon High School junior is in his first year as the varsity starting center, a crucial position in the Dukes' shotgun offense.
"The most important ingredient to the gun is the center," Dixon coach Dave Smith said. "He's extremely intelligent. He's at the top of his class academically. And, he's quick and tenacious. He's been a very good surprise for us."
What's Harrison is not is a braggart. He's one of those own-worst-critic types.
"I'm not going to lie, our centers have had a hard time," said the 5-foot-11, 172-pound Harrison, who is also in the linebacker rotation. "But, we're getting better. There is a lot of pressure playing center. Every play, you're the first thing that has to go right."
Cody Mighell, another of Dixon's 14 11th-graders on the junior-dominated roster, stepped into a starting role as a sophomore.
"He's got a very good nose for the ball," Smith said. "We needed help last year at linebacker, and he came in and played the hammer [an outside linebacker position] for us."
The Dukes (1-4, 0-1 NIB-12 West) visit LaSalle-Peru (also 1-4, 0-1).
"I feel like LP and us are equal," said Mighell, a 5-10, 202-pounder who also sees time at running back. "We just have to play like we did against Yorkville, and we'll definitely take them down."
Dixon lost at home to Yorkville 24-14 in Week 3. LaSalle-Peru defeated Yorkville 16-9 the following week.
Though the Dukes have lost four straight since winning their opener, the team has not lost confidence.
"We know that we can play better than we have been, and we plan on playing better than we have been," Harrison said.
Dixon's playoff hopes are still mathematically alive. Are they still thinking playoffs?
"Always," Mighell said. "No matter if you lose by a lot or you win by a lot, that's how you have to think about it. That always has to be your goal."
Last season, LP thumped Dixon 53-14 in Week 6, with Cavs then-senior quarterback Zack Cinotto throwing for 388 yards and seven touchdowns in less than 3 quarters.
This year, LP boasts a lot of size.
"They have 6-3 and 6-1 receivers, and a 6-3 tight end," Smith said. "They have a 6-4, 331-pound guard who also plays nose tackle. Their smallest lineman is 235."
Dixon junior receiver/defensive back Matt Coffey is questionable with an ankle injury he suffered last week.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Fellows Stadium, LaSalle
Twitter: Larry Brennan (@LarryBrennan)
Radio: 1460 AM