When it comes to the wide receiver position, Mentor has had several players over the years that Coach Steve Trivisonno would refer to as "The Dude".
Brandon James, Conner Krizancic, Brandon Fritts, Jason Blizzard, Manning Trubisky all qualify in that description of the standout, go-to-anytime, game-changing threat in the passing game.
While this year's group might not have "The Dude" statistically, Trivisonno is comfortable and confident that all five guys in the wide receiver rotation are the dudes he needs in the air attack to help the Cardinals win games.
Luke Floriea, Mason Trubisky, Justin Luke, Nolan Vernon and Charlie Gallo have combined for 82 catches, 1,023 yards and 10 touchdowns. Floriea leads the way with 24 catches and all five have double-digit receptions.
"This is a really athletic group with two big guys on the outside and three burners on the inside," Trivisonno said. "It's a complete group that catch the ball really well. You don't have the one "dude" and they are all pretty even as far as number of catches, but they make big plays and we have all the faith in them."
Floriea has had to give up his receiver position for a few games to fill in for injured QB Ian Kipp. He has run the show well, moving the ball through the air and with his legs.
While he has enjoyed success at quarterback, Floriea is looking forward to a healthy Kipp returning for the playoffs and he can return to catching passes.
"We are a very close group and these guys have always had my back even when I am at QB, but I am looking forward to getting Ian back and I can get back into the pattern and catch passes," Floriea said. "No matter what, we are always ready."
Trubisky, who missed time early recovering from an injury, thinks the strength of the wideouts is the versatility.
"We have it all - height on the outside, speed on the inside and we have good hands," Trubisky said. "When I was out, I had to watch and learn and know where I had to be so I could come right in and make plays with these guys."
The receivers have made plays since Week 1 in a win over St. Edward, but haven't always grabbed the spotlight because of Kipp and running back Brian Trobel.
Luke said he thinks as the games get bigger in the postseason, the receivers will make an even bigger impact.
"I feel like we are underrated group, but I feel as we get later in the season teams will hear more and more about us," Luke said. "We've made that (playoff) shift and we are focusing on what we need to do moving forward."
Gallo said the difference in the wide receivers from the summer to now is considerable and the group feels closer and better than ever. He also said the loss in last year's state finals serves as motivation to continue to strive to improve even as the postseason approaches.
"The same goal every year, but we know in the back of our head what happened last year and we will be ready this time," Gallo said. "I think we are much more consistent - the way we run routes, our depth, everything is so much better now than early in the summer and it is getting better."
Vernon said the fact that the five of them are friends off the field is something that can't be overlooked and it is beneficial on Friday nights in between the lines.
"We're brothers, and it definitely helps on and off the field," Vernon said.
"We are young, but we want to be the best Mentor team to ever play here. We are hungry, but now we have to go get it."
- Bill Tilton
October 26, 2018