BATAVIA – Jack Canniff, at the very least, can ensure this story won’t be normal-sounding.
Canniff, a Batavia senior guard/tackle, shared a dream he had during the eighth week of the regular season.
“We were going to state against Mount Carmel,” Canniff said. “It was a pretty crazy dream.”
Considering Batavia (10-3) will face the undefeated Caravan (13-0) in Champaign at 4 p.m. Saturday, Canniff’s potential premonition is off to a promising start.
Canniff then set the stage.
Batavia was playing the game at Memorial Stadium and “scores are going all over the place; starts off like a normal dream [with] touchdowns.” The Bulldogs then go into the halftime break down a touchdown.
“At halftime, I run into my good friend [junior] Ben Brown. He’s crying because [Mount Carmel] is up. The game is not over, but he’s crying for some reason,” Canniff said.
Canniff’s random, unexplainable mission: Finding Saul Goodman – the iconic Breaking Bad lawyer and spinster played by actor Bob Odenkirk.
The game is still ongoing and Canniff left Memorial Stadium in full pads and all.
“I [later] find him in a taxi. He doesn’t say a word to me,” Canniff said. “But, I tell him: ‘Mount Carmel has to lose’ – something like that – and he acknowledges me.”
Canniff admits the character, who had the taxi window down, didn’t look like Odenkirk – he just simply knew it was him.
Canniff then enters back into the stadium “and the score is changed from numbers to the words ‘thun’ and ‘der’ – ‘Thunder’, a nod to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”.
“Then, I woke up,” Canniff said. “I was thinking about it for five minutes: ‘How did it start off so normal and at the end of the dream, turn out to be something completely weird?”
So, who ultimately won the game? Canniff isn’t quite sure.
“I don’t know what ‘thunder’ means, so we’ll have to see on Saturday,” Canniff said. “It’s supposed to rain on Saturday, so maybe that has something to do with it...for some reason, when I saw the words ‘thun-der’, it just snapped me out of reality.”
Fun dream aside, Canniff’s outlook on Mount Carmel is the following:
“They run a similar defense to us. Their offense is pretty solid and it’s going to be a great game,” Canniff said.
Zitkus anchors Batavia O-Line
Jimmy Zitkus, a two-year starter on Batavia’s offensive line, is arguably its tone-setter.
The Bulldogs’ line, from left to right, goes Jonathan Brown, Frankie Porcaro, Jack David, Zitkus and Nick Ruiz.
It is in large part because of those five Batavia averages 218 rushing yards, 117 passing yards and 30 points per game.
“I knew they were a bunch of young guys and [I had to] lead the way,” Zitkus said. “We got to really work together as a unit.”
Zitkus prefers to lead by example – and it’s paying off for Batavia just a day away from the state finals.
“I’m not a big ‘rah-rah and saying a bunch of stuff,’” Zitkus said.
Jelling and meshing an offensive line into top form takes weeks to see to fruition, but Zitkus saw it rounding into top gear by Week Seven against Geneva.
“I think that was a big week for us,” Zitkus said. “We really dominated that week and really led the way.”
Zitkus played against Mount Carmel last year and already has a taste for the physicality up front.
“They’re pretty big, [but] they’re not the biggest we’ve seen [or] the fastest,” Zitkus said of the Caravan D-line. “...We’re just going to play our football and we’ve got to blow them off the ball.”