Bears look to make up for lack of numbers with heart

Bill Althaus
William Chrisman quarterbacks Dayne Herl, left, and Osi Nauer run sprints at a recent practice. Herl and Nauer will share quarterbacking duties for the Bears this season.

Numbers are easy to measure.

But heart?

Well, that’s a bit different – just ask William Chrisman standouts like junior Dayne Herl and seniors Osi Nauer and Alex Atagi.

The Bears football team will not overwhelm any opponent with numbers, but that trio of heart-and-soul players say don’t just go by the numbers on the sidelines when you talk about this 2020 squad.

“We don’t have the most numbers of any team in the area,” said Herl, who will share quarterback duties with the multi-talented Nauer, who will spend much of his time in the backfield as a ball carrier, “but you see the guys we have out here?

“The guys we have out here are the guys who want to play, who want to be game changers who want to make a difference with this football program, and I’m ready to play with them any time, any day.”

Nauer – who was one of the area’s premier running quarterbacks, as well as an all-district and all-conference defensive back, last season – is eager to share that position with Herl, a junior who could be an impact player.

“We can’t wait for the season to start,” Nauer said. “Last year was tough. I feel like I’m more of a runner than a thrower, but this year, I have worked a lot on my throwing and I think I might surprise some people.

“And Dayne can really throw the ball, so I’m looking forward to sharing the quarterback position with him and being in the backfield when he’s behind center.”

Nauer says there is a different feel to this year’s team as the Bears have checked their egos at the locker room door and are ready to work as one, for one goal – winning.

“It just feels different this year,” Nauer said. “I’ve never been on a team that feels as close as this team. We’ve got the great seniors and the young guys like Dayne and we’re all about winning. We don’t care who gets the credit, we just want to go out and play – and win.”

He added that playing was a big motivating factor this season as many schools – like those in Kansas City, Kansas, and Johnson County, Kansas – have wiped out the 2020 fall season.

“There was a time I thought we might not play, and that hurt,” Nauer said. “Now, from everything I am hearing, it looks like we’re going to play and we’re going to play this fall so we’re getting after it in practice because we want to be ready.”

Atagi, the strong, silent leader of the Bears, agrees with his teammate.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked up to a convenience store and had to walk back to my car to get my mask,” said Atagi, a two-way lineman who will rarely leave the field. “This is the new normal, and we have to go along with it. But I was scared we wouldn’t be able to play this fall, like the kids didn’t get to play last spring. I’m pretty sure we’re going to play and I am more excited about this season than any season I’ve been a part of this team.”

And statements like that fire up coach Matt Perry, who has done his best to keep up with social distancing and mask protection during the Bears’ practice sessions.

“Alex is one of those quiet leaders who doesn’t say much,” Perry said, “but when he does say something, you should be listening. The guys we have this year are special. They do have big hearts and a love for the game.

“We have been practicing, not knowing if we would play or not. And it’s still not 100 percent, but it’s looking more and more like we will be playing this fall and that gets everyone excited.

“While we don’t have big numbers, we have some talented kids and we have some kids who can play both ways. We have great senior leadership and some good skill people. Like the guys just told you, we’re all excited about this season.”

William Chrisman football coach Matt Perry encourages his team following a recent practice.