After three consecutive losing seasons from 2017-19, including a 1-8 mark in 2019, the St. Bede football program began to turn things around in the shortened spring 2021 season.
The Bruins went 5-1 in the spring and built upon that last fall, going 8-3 and advancing to the second round of the Class 1A playoffs.
“The program has grown to a point that year in and year out we expect to be where we’ve been the last two seasons,” St. Bede coach Jim Eustice said.
Eustice attributes the success to an improved strength and conditioning program and familiarity with the offensive and defensive systems.
Two years ago, St. Bede redid its weight room with the help of donations from alumni.
Head wrestling coach and assistant football coach Sam Allen runs the strength and conditioning program, and St. Bede students now have the option of taking strength and conditioning as a class.
“There’s been a lot of buy in,” Eustice said. “Being strong builds confidence in all sports. We had some success after the buy in and redoing of the weight room. Now we’re two years into it and it’s an expected thing as opposed to trying to track kids down to get them into the weight room.”
Eustice said another factor is the players knowing the system well with the Bruins making some adjustments to fit the skills of the personnel each season.
“We have a great coaching staff,” Eustice said. “The system on both sides of the ball is pretty much the same. The kids know it. They have confidence because they’re stronger and faster and we’re doing the same thing and they understand what we’re doing. When you understand what you’re doing and have some confidence, then you play harder and faster.”
With improved strength and conditioning, understanding of philosophy and confidence, the Bruins have been very successful in tight games during their back-to-back winning seasons.
Last fall, the Bruins were 4-0 in games decided by six points or less, beating Erie-Prophetstown (15-13), Newman (13-7), Bureau Valley (13-7) and Hall (15-12).
“We won a lot of close games over the last two seasons,” Eustice said. “That says a lot about our kids and our coaches. Many of those we could have ended up being on the short end.”
With a strong nucleus back on both sides of the ball — including NewsTribune and BCR All-Area quarterback John Brady leading the offense and All-Area safety and leading tackler Ryan Brady leading the defense — the Bruins are aiming for another winning season and playoff run.
“First and foremost, our goal is to be a playoff team and get better every week,” Eustice said. “We’ve done that the last two seasons and our kids fully expect that. Our seniors helped that group in the spring go 5-1 and be playoff eligible so to speak and as juniors were a big part of the success we had. Our juniors have been part of two playoff games. Our sophomores were part of it last year as freshmen. With the incoming freshmen, the guys are showing them the ropes. It’s a lot of fun and we expect to win every game we play and we expect to be in the playoffs.”