Batavia coach Dennis Piron doesn’t sound concerned that his Bulldogs could have a let-down on Friday against winless St. Charles East.
That would be a natural worry since the game is sandwiched between marquee games against Bartlett – a 35-13 win on Friday – and Geneva, but Piron thinks the Bulldogs’ study habits will keep the team locked-in.
“They are respectful, they are hard-working, and every opponent gets the effort that Bartlett got [Friday],” Piron said. “Every opponent all year. St. Charles East is going to get a state championship preparation by our kids and our coaches. Geneva is going to get a state championship preparation. That’s what we’re going to do all year long.”
Piron credited quarterback Noel Gaspari with some nuanced reads during the game, and similarly attributed the Bulldogs’ five interceptions on defense to shrewd analysis of Bartlett’s offensive movements.
Piron pointed to Batavia’s advanced film study program, courtesy of recent technology.
“We know what you’re doing,” Piron said. “We know your playbook. That’s what that thing does if your kids use it. We’re spending a lot of time watching film. Our kids are watching film at night, watching film at school on their breaks, at lunch. They’re talking about football. ... And then when it comes on the field and those things happen, they feel confident in their reads and their reactions.”
Great study habits aside, Piron acknowledged this year’s group is more physically gifted than most teams of the past.
“I mentioned [before Friday’s game] I thought Bartlett looked like they’ve paid the price, well I tell you, this group of kids paid the price as well,” Piron said. “They worked extremely hard in the offseason. ... I’m going to tell you, no one outworked us. I can promise you that.”
Geneva cornerback Matt Brandys is set to have the cast removed from his broken left hand this week, a huge relief for the snakebitten senior.
Brandys, a Wheaton Academy transfer, broke the same bone in his right hand last baseball season. The latest break came on the first play of Geneva’s preseason football scrimmage.
“I’m so happy to get it off,” Brandys said. “It’s kind of a pain and it kind of smells pretty bad, too, so it’ll be nice to get it off.”
Despite the injury, Brandys has split time at cornerback all season, wearing a club that he said makes it tricky to try and snare interceptions but otherwise allows him to play effectively. He even blocked a field goal during Friday’s win against Elgin.
Brandys is playing football for the first time since his freshman year at Mt. Carmel. He didn’t play football at Wheaton Academy, where he focused on baseball as a sophomore and junior. He said friends at Geneva talked him into playing this year.
“Friends, and then just honestly, I feel like Geneva just stands out as a place where it’s a giant family. ... I finally feel at home and I feel a part of something that’s bigger than me,” Brandys said. “There was a sense of camaraderie at my other schools, but the team chemistry I think we have, you can’t match it.”
St. Charles East is off to an 0-4 start despite playing three of its first four games at Norris Stadium.
The Saints will try and make headway in their visitors’ uniforms the next four weeks, starting Friday at Batavia. Road games at Streamwood, Lake Park and Elgin follow before the Saints finish with a home tilt against St. Charles North.
IN THE GROOVE
Jon Gray, Batavia, Sr., CB/WR What he did: Gray snared three of Batavia’s five interceptions on Friday, including one that he returned 79 yards for a touchdown, in the Bulldogs’ 35-13 win. He also added a pair of catches for 50 receiving yards. Joel Bouagnon, Burlington Central, Jr., RB What he did: Bouagnon rushed for 157 yards on 23 carries, including a pair of touchdowns, to lead the Rockets to a resounding 35-7 win against defending 3A state champion Stillman Valley.
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK ...
It’s probably going to be a crowded field of local entries in the playoffs.
Batavia, Geneva, Kaneland and Aurora Christian remain unbeaten and are virtual locks to qualify, while postseason contenders Aurora Central Catholic, Burlington Central, Marmion and St. Francis all bolstered their causes with wins on Friday.
WHAT WE’LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD ...
Whether Aurora Christian can put two-time 5A defending state champion Montini in some postseason peril.
After a 21-20 loss to Marian Central on Friday, the Broncos are 2-2, and have a challenging two-week stretch coming with the Eagles on Friday and St. Francis (3-1) the following week.
COACH SLY SEZ ...
Coach Sly doesn’t envy the kids and coaches at East and North with the way their teams’ football seasons are going, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the year has to be a wash.
Let’s be real, the odds of either team winning this Friday (East plays Batavia, North plays Geneva), let alone peeling off five straight Ws to make the playoffs, are about as good as Coach Sly being able to drill a 55-yard field goal into the wind.
But just because a season doesn’t lead to the playoffs doesn’t mean it’s a wasted year. There are plenty of lessons to be learned, individual and team improvement to be made and, most of all, fun to be enjoyed playing the sport these kids love.
Sly’s not going to sit here and say these kids don’t have the right to be a little grumpy, but hopefully all involved can keep the sulking to a minimum and salvage some great memories the rest of the season. It can happen, but only if the mindset is right.