Crete-Monee has not lacked for senior leadership and one reason is safety Jonathan Draper.
Warriors coach John Konecki said the team's co-captain has just done his job.
"Jon is an excellent leader on our team. He is full of energy and is always trying to provide a spark to our games and practices," Konecki said."On the field, he is an extremely intelligent player who always seems to be in the right place. He is unique in that he is equally good at covering the pass and the run from his position."
Crete-Monee (8-1) is top seeded in its Class 6A quadrant and faces No. 8 Providence (5-4) in a first-round playoff game at 1 p.m. Saturday. Draper said he had to make that transition from a junior on the Warriors Class 6A state championship team.
"Last year, you did sit back, do your job and watch the senior lead," Draper said. "We had Quon (Laquon Treadwell), Marcus (Terrell), Lance (Lenoir), (Kyle) Tilley. I learned a lot from them about leadership. This year, Chris (Slayton), Nyles (Morgan), myself and the other seniors, when it time to be vocal, we are. Otherwise, we just go about our jobs."
Draper has done his job well. He has 44 solo tackles, 24 assists, including four tackles-for-loss. He also has forced five fumbles, recovered three, has two sacks and two interceptions. He is not afraid to stick it to a bigger ball carrier or receiver, Konecki said.
"The other component of Jon's game that sets him apart is how hard he hits when he tackles," Konecki said. "Pound for pound Jon is probably our hardest hitter on the team.
"As a coach, you love having players like Jon Draper on your team. He is so versatile. He plays on offense, defense, and special teams for us."
Draper said the team's 30-6 loss to Benet Academy could have sent the Warriors the wrong way, but he and the seniors made sure the team learned from their first regular-season loss in over two years.
"It hurt, that's for sure, but it made us understand that we can lose if we do not play our best," Draper said. "We had to tell the underclassmen to not keep their heads down and come back next week."
As for Providence, he expects a tough game.
"They are definitely a very good team, physical," Draper said. "We have to come out ready."