When Wheeler lost to Bremen in last year's Class 2A regional, the most disappointed Bearcat might not have even been in a uniform.
Suspended for the season for an athletics code of conduct violation, Jeremy Truchan couldn't share in the joys of the 12 wins and sectional title or the sadness of their post-season defeat.
"It was rough," said Truchan, who started as a sophomore. "I felt bad. I felt sorry for my teammates. I couldn't help but feel I could've done something. It was the longest year of my life. Anybody who tells you how fast your high school career flies by, you realize that when you're watching from the sidelines. I couldn't wait to come back."
By all indications, Truchan returned better for the experience. More humble, mature and dedicated.
"You can tell he regrets missing what he did," coach Tony Klimczak said. "He realizes he can never get it back, and I feel like he's trying to make the most of every opportunity he has."
An opportunity presented itself last week after freshman QB Jake LaFever chose to give up football for injury concerns, this following the loss of Alex Ruesta to a concussion in Week 2.
"'TK' told me it was my time to run the show," said Truchan, a receiver to that point. "He trusts me. He feels confident in my play-making. I had to live up to it. I wanted to go out and help the team however I possibly could, so it was no big deal. I'd gladly step down as receiver to help in any other way."
Truchan had taken some practice snaps out of the Wildcat formation and Klimczak had toyed with the idea previously.
"We went to it last year with Robert Hurd and it was successful," Klimczak said. "Jeremy's a leader. He's an athlete. He's got a good arm. It's a natural fit for him. He's just such a dynamic receiver -- he's a threat at any time -- I wanted to leave him there. If he has college aspirations, that will be his spot."
Through four games, Truchan had 13 catches for 201 yards and two scores, along with a 77-yard punt return touchdown. Under center last Friday, he accounted for 242 yards and two scores in Wheeler's 25-7 victory over South Central and former Bearcats coach Dan Klimczak.
"I was nervous," Truchan said. "I'd never been a full-time quarterback before obviously. It's a varsity game, the week we were playing 'Coach K.' We had it circled on the calendar. I missed some wide-open guys. I'd see green (grass) and go instead of risking it (throwing). As the game went on, I got more comfortable."
Klimczak gave Truchan an 'A' as a Wildcat quarterback. For a traditional QB....
"We had two guys wide open and he pulled it down," Klimczak said of Wheeler's first snap. "That's experience, knowing where to look. There are things he needs to work on...understanding his drop backs, where his protection is. But I'm not going to fault him for anything. He came in and played like a champion."
Truchan continues to play defensive back, which actually helps him with his signal-caller IQ.
"I know how to read throws, where receivers are going, how routes develop," he said. "I just have to focus on reading defenses and the throws will be there."
The extra responsibility hasn't bought Truchan any down time. In addition to defense, he remains on special teams. Not that he's complaining.
"I'd rather be on the field than off," Truchan said. "I'm going to use the time I have left to make up for lost time, to get the most out of my high school experience. We're finally starting to click, especially on defense. The line's coming together. Offense, as we keep adding to our repertoire, we're getting more and more dangerous. I feel like we're on our way."