November 29, 2023
Sports - Kane County

Sports - Kane County

Prep Football Notes: Once and current Bulldogs share passion

Although Batavia will be on the road for Friday's Upstate Eight Conference River Division championship game against Geneva, the Bulldogs expect a raucous backing, as usual.

Geneva week carries numerous traditions and emotions for the Batavia football team, and one of the predominant behind-the-scenes customs stars a former Bulldog turned coach.

Sure, as the Bulldogs will gather for a team dinner Thursday, the eve of Friday’s Upstate Eight Conference River Division title tilt at Burgess Field, defensive coordinator Matt Holm will give a stirring address as a motivational side dish.

“Every year, he gives a super passionate speech,” Bulldogs senior defensive end Derek Nutley said. “It’s crazy, the passion our coaches have for the game. It’s unbelievable.”

Holm is but one of a handful of Batavia alumni on the staff of another former Bulldog, fifth-year head coach Dennis Piron.

Offensive line coach P.J. White and receivers coach Bai Kabba assist the varsity, while Alvin Cole (linemen), Steve Bailey (running backs) and Shane Holl (defensive line) serve in volunteer roles.

Batavia product Mike Theriault is the program’s head freshman coach, and counts fellow former Bulldogs Alex Beckmann (defensive backs) and Ryan Sullivan (wide receivers) on his staff. Sullivan also is a volunteer.

“It helps us connect with them a lot. They’re really special guys, because they come from the same thing we come from,” Nutley said. “I mean, just to know that they’ve been there, they’ve done that.

“And even though they weren’t on, maybe, winning teams, they know what it takes, and they’ve got the same mentality that we’ve got.”

Line him up

Although he usually is positioned on the right side of the Vikings’ offensive line, senior Loudon Vollbrecht entered the season as a swing tackle in coach Rob Wicinski’s scheme.

Thus far, that has not included Vollbrecht shifting to take defensive snaps for any extended period.

“It’s more of a fallback thing for when someone gets hurt,” Vollbrecht said.

Geneva’s defense has remained healthy throughout its unbeaten start, including last week’s effort at UEC crossover foe Glenbard East.

The Rams had averaged 40 points a game in their first six games before the Vikings clamped down in a 39-21 victory.

Meanwhile, a Geneva offensive line that was one of the team’s greener position groups during the preseason has jelled quickly. The unit includes seniors Matt Pawlak, Matt Julseth, John Boenzi and Bobby Ariss.

“We’ve got great personnel,” Vollbrecht said. “It’s a weekly process.”

Thirty-one savors

Friday’s game will mark the first time in 31 years that Mike Gaspari has not been part of the madness.

Batavia’s head coach from 1985 to 2010, Gaspari served as the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator from 2011 to 2014 before joining the Aurora University coaching staff in the offseason.

Batavia’s offense still features multiple sets and formations even with Gaspari gone.

“It comes down to everybody, not just the starters,” junior offensive lineman Jackson Lambert said. “It comes down to everybody in practice. Everybody’s got to try their best. And we have great depth, more than just our starters. And everybody really works hard.”

Gaspari won 135 games in 26 seasons as Batavia head coach, including 16 against the Vikings.

Kevin Druley

Kevin Druley for Shaw Local News Network

Kevin Druley is a freelance writer for Shaw Local News Network who covered sports for the Kane County Chronicle from 2008-16