Verde has Crete-Monee Riding High

There once was a time that Crete-Monee football was the doormat of their conference. Winning wasn't expected and mediocrity was tolerated. Enter Jerry Verde and now the Warriors are one of elite programs in Illinois.

Jerry Verde knows winning. He played for Dave Mattio at Marian Catholic, played for Mike Slovik at the University of St. Francis and another one of his mentors is respected St. Xavier University coach Mike Feminis.

Those are some pretty good and respected coaches. I asked Coach Verde how he turned around a once downtrodden program that is now 9-0 for the first time since 1952.

"It's all a mindset," said Coach Verde. "We came in and it's been a process. We don't let our players wear earrings. We don't allow our players to miss practice and then start that week.

"I think once the kids start seeing that they can have something special. That they can win games and do things together as a team, everyone bought in.

"We've been knocking on the door in recent years and we're hoping to make a run now."

The play-offs can be stressful time for coaches but Verde is actually relieved that the play-offs are here.

"When we were 5-0 and the possibility of a 9-0 season for the first time in five decades got closer, I think everyone got tight. Rich East gave us everything we could handle last week and after the game it was more relief than celebration by our team."

Crete-Monee is loaded with athletes including Michigan bound safety Anthony Standifer. However, the injury bug hit the Warriors and Standifer is doubtful with a shoulder separation for at least the play-off opener and cornerback Tray Whitehead sprained his knee.

"We don't know if we'll get Anthony (Standifer) back this year," Verde said. "It's difficult to come back from shoulder and knee injuries. We are going to need others to step up.

"Laquon Treadwell is a 1,000 yard receiver. Junior Lance Lenoir is another receiver that has game-breaking ability and we've had some young kids step up on defense.

"The play-offs are a one game season. We can't look past Bloomington. There was a time when this school hadn't won a play-off game in years. Now we are a confident group ready to take the next step."

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