John Tracey freely admits the Alleman football team is not "bigger, stronger or faster than anybody" on its schedule.
So how do the Pioneers find a way to get it done?
"Fundamentals," Tracey said.
Need a reason an undersized group featuring several two-way players can reach the Class 4A state championship game for a second time in three years, it is the little things that do not make the box score. What the Pioneers lack in physical stature is compensated by the ability to play mistake-free football and execute their schemes.
"That's something we need to be good at," said Tracey, the Alleman senior quarterback. "We need to be fundamentally sound."
So far, so good.
In four postseason games, the Pioneers, who meet Rochester (12-1) in Friday's state championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, have put the fun in fundamentals. Alleman holds a plus-7 turnover margin while committing an average of four penalties a game.
During its two road postseason victories, Alleman has no turnovers with five penalties.
"We work on fundamentals. That's where it all starts," Alleman senior lineman Scott Schilb said. "You do your fundamentals, success will come."
Others notice the Pioneers' execution and ability to limit mistakes.
"They're not going to beat themselves," Rochester coach Derek Leonard said. "They're a team you don't like to see because if you make a mistake, you're in trouble."
Evergreen Park experienced that last Saturday. The Mustangs had speed, athleticism and size at every level, but seven penalties — including five illegal-procedure miscues — and two interceptions altered drives and kept them from ever finding a rhythm.
On the other end, the Pioneers did not commit a penalty on their final eight drives.
"That was an important part of getting out of there with a (23-7) win," Alleman coach Dave DeJaegher said. "We took care of things — stuff we could control. The kids came through."
This, however, was not a one-time occurrence. For years, the Pioneers have been respected because of how they play the game.
Opponents marvel at how Alleman gets the most from its roster because of fundamentals.
"That's what we've built (the program) on," DeJaegher said. "It started with (former coach) Mike Tracey establishing the blueprint on how we need to play to be successful at Alleman. We need to make sure we play as fundamentally sound as we can and be disciplined.
"That's how it was built. Our job is to carry it on."
The cycle continues.
DeJaegher said Alleman stays with the "normal routine of blocking and tackling every week. No matter who we're facing or time constraints, we never alter off that." The Pioneers keep their schemes simple, allowing the team to perfect their responsibilities and assignments.
From there, they work on fundamentals.
"If you start leaving that short," DeJaegher said, "it will show up in a hurry."
Mistakes have been nonexistent this season. Alleman carries a plus-19 turnover margin into the state finals with 33 fewer penalties than its opponents.
That's why Alleman stands one win away from a state title.
"Some teams can look at us and say, 'Wow, they're short, non-athletic kids,'" Tracey said. "But we play hard. It's Alleman football — that's what we're all about."
Fundamentals are what the Pioneers preach.
"Football is one sport where (success) doesn't always go to the biggest and the fastest," DeJaegher said. "You don't have to be a great athlete to be a good football player if you concentrate on fundamentals."
Today is Monday, Dec. 9, the 343rd day of 2013. There are 22 days left in the year. 1863 — 150 years ago: All last week were favored with the most delightful Indian summer weather. The mercury ranged from 40 to 65 degrees and the ice is entirely gone out of the river. 1888 — 125 years ago: W.D. Reimers was given charge of the Weyerhaeuser-Denkmann mill in Davenport. 1913 — 100 years ago: Eight hundred or more tons of earth in six landslides, covered 38th Street for a distance of 200 feet near 7th Avenue and destroyed much property. 1938 — 75 years ago: Patrolman Joseph H. Schnelder, of Moline, has been awarded four medals for proficiency in marksmanship. He is the crack pistol shot of the Rock Island district. 1963 — 50 years ago: For the 83rd year, George Frederic Handel's "Messiah" was performed at Augustana College ushering in the spiritual aspect of the Christmas season. 1988 — 25 years ago: A water main break Thursday night, the fourth this week, affected 35 homes near the 2200 block of 39th Street, Rock Island, city officials said today.