By Brian Eller - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- He's known simply as "The Situation."
No, not that "Situation," the one whose defined six-pack charmed so many viewers on MTV's hit show "Jersey Shore." No, out in Warren County, the Wildcats have found their own version of a breakout star, though theirs is turning heads as a football player, rather than just a "player."
The physical differences are noticeable, of course. There's no spiked, jet-black hair, or that signature New Jersey accent, and the closest shore is more than just a boardwalk away. But through three games, senior linebacker Jayme Perry has emerged as a force for Warren County.
Heading into the season, opposing offenses had to put a watchful eye on junior linebacker Gage Steele, a physical middle linebacker who forces teams to spread the ball outside. Now, that other eye must be put on Perry, the slightly undersized defensive end who doesn't say much with his mouth, but speaks volumes with his pads.
His numbers pop off the stat sheet. His 7 1/2 sacks is tops on the team. He's registered 29 tackles, 17 of them solo, and a blocked punt and fumble recovery, and is a big reason why the Wildcats are off to a 3-0 start.
But unlike MTV's "The Situation," Perry goes about his business with a quiet resolve, unnoticed by opponents before a game and praised following the final down.
"We've renamed him 'The Situation' simply because there really isn't any situation he can't handle," Wildcats coach Tony Tallent said. "His speed, his quickness and his overall strength, as far as being a weight-room fanatic, he's in the top five of kids that we have."
Now in his second season as a defensive end, Perry has meshed his abilities as a run stopper and impressive speed off the ball with his role of penetrating the line of scrimmage and wreaking havoc in opposing backfields.
On rushing plays, Perry's job is to force his opponents to either move to the short side of the field, where a swarm of maroon jerseys engulf opposing tailbacks, or open gaps for the linebackers on the second level.
"We'll run different blitzes and on a couple of them I'll go outside and I'll take the tackle outside and leave a big gap for the outside linebacker," Perry said. "But sometimes I'll run the opposite way and head inside. I guess this year I'm just more comfortable [on the defensive line] and can focus on my job."
On passing plays, Perry is downright relaxed -- that is, until the ball is snapped. The task here is even simpler, Perry says.
"They tell me to hit the quarterback," he says, flashing a grin.
An easy task at its most basic thought, but there's much more to it in the mind of Perry. Like he's done nearly eight times this season, having a clean shot at a quarterback is salivating, but must be approached carefully in order to bring him down fast and hard.
"I need to make sure he doesn't get away from me," Perry said. "If I can strip the ball I'll do it, but getting him down is the goal. It's usually over pretty fast."
Unfortunately for opposing players, "fast" is all Perry knows. Even his teammates must deal with the consequences of Perry's knack for sometimes being too intense on the field, particularly during practice.
One day, the Wildcats were practicing drills in which the offensive line and running backs had to pick up an all-out blitz. It's a drill they had been going over for nearly a month. On one snap, Perry came across the line, but was stopped before reaching the quarterback.
His teammates hooted and hollered. Others applauded. It was the first time Perry hadn't broken up the play. It took three weeks for somebody to stop him.
"One of the reasons we're so good at blitz pickup is because we have to block Jayme Perry every day," Tallent said. "Sometimes at practice, you can't get reps in unless you call him back. He just comes with such tenacity. Every play for him is the last down of the Super Bowl."
That tenacity is a point of pride for Perry, however. As far as the senior is concerned, just because it's practice doesn't mean it's not football.
"I feel like you should be almost as intense in practice as in games because you're helping out the offense," Perry said. "If you have people that are going half speed on the scout defense, it's not helping out your team. They're not learning anything."
Perry, meanwhile, has learned a lot over the past year, nowhere more so than in the weight room, where he has been awarded with Warren County's "Ironcat" label, a mark reserved for the top weightlifters in the school's program. That effort has certainly translated to the football field where, with the help of Perry's unmatched intensity, and not-so-striking resemblance to the original "Situation," he has gotten Warren County off to a good start toward a district championship.
"I've been playing for a while and it just feels good to be ahead of other people," Perry said. "We've got more commitment [this season]. All of our players are older and we're finally up at the senior level. I've been waiting since middle school for this team."