CHILLICOTHE, Ill. — When he thinks back to who he was as a sophomore quarterback starting on varsity, Alex Merlo laughs.

“I was throwing to anyone who was open. First thought, if he’s open I’m throwing it,” Merlo said. “This year year I’m reading the defense, not looking for an open guy.”

Now Merlo is a clear leader of a team that is seeking its first 5-0 start since 2009.

“I don’t think anyone can throw the ball as well as Alex does, he puts the work in,” said senior Micah Schultz. “He’s out here in the summer doing pass after pass. I feel like this year he has put it all together.”

With a name like Merlo, the IVC qseniotr has heard it before. His game is aging like a fine wine.

But he says his entire team is doing that. His teammates have been together since they played JFL football together and they have aged gracefully into a winner.

“It’s like we know each other, we know what to say, it’s not nerve-racking,” Merlo said. “We are bot going to mess up.”

Head coach Tim Heinz started many of these players when they were sophomores.

“We have 14 seniors and a bunch of juniors that all played as sophomores,” Heinz said. “They know what they are doing. They know what their buddy is doing. They talk to each other and have good communication on the field. That helps.”

The Grey Ghosts have a big game Friday at Prairie Central (3-1). A win puts itself in position for a run at a conference title and makes them playoff eligible.

“It’s always going to be a special season. It’s our senior season,” said senior Ethan Zick. “We are working our hardest to make it the best we’ve had. If we break records along the way, it’s the cherry on top.”