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Titled, not entitled.
Batavia football comes off a banner year, the 2013 Class 6A title win over Richards the Bulldogs' first state football championship and the school's first team championship since the boys basketball team won it all in 1912.
On Monday -- the two-day head start an Illinois High School Association response to its acclimatization policy instituted last year, limiting practice time -- Batavia officially eased into 2014 with equipment handouts, what coach Dennis Piron called "administrative stuff," play walk-throughs and a 2-hour afternoon practice in helmets.
Piron doesn't believe those helmets will feel any tighter, no big heads despite last year's glory.
"It's been an incredibly fun year for the kids with the accolades and all the things that come with it," he said. "But around our school, I was proud of how they conducted themselves. I didn't feel like it ever became an overriding anything at our school or in the community."
Piron said the players went back to worrying about the usual -- grades, college choices, other sports. Returnees such as offensive linemen Patrick Gamble and Jack Breshears, safety Nick Bernabei and record-setting sackmasters Noah Frazier and Josh Leonhard worked on getting better.
"I don't think the kids felt entitled," said Piron, whose own son, receiver Peyton, enters his senior season confident after a breakout track season as a hurdler and 400-meter runner.
Batavia couldn't help but feel entitled to a little fun, rightly so. It wasn't quite a Stanley Cup offseason but Dennis Piron said the Booster Club auctioned appearances with the championship trophy for graduation parties. The award surfaced at sessions of Batavia Youth Football, which enjoys a strong relationship with the high school program.
Classes that complemented each other helped create last season's success. Though Batavia graduated stars such as Anthony Thielk (Minnesota State), Anthony Scaccia (Butler) and Micah Coffey (Minnesota, baseball), Piron said between work ethic and confidence this year's squad starts the 2014 season in a good space.
"They sure seem to have a lot of fun, and they don't feel a lot of pressure," the coach said.
Recruits line up
Batavia's Breshears, who Piron said will bounce between right and left offensive tackle, has verbally committed to Florida Atlantic. Frazier, an academic type who will send his tight end-size body into running back reps, could have his pick of Ivy or Patriot league opportunities plus Mid-America Conference looks. Bernabei, Leonhard and linebacker Jake Hlava are among nine Bulldogs Piron said could play from Division III on up.
Geneva three-year starting quarterback Michael Santacaterina beat the crowd when on May 13 he committed to Northern Illinois, following his brother, Michael, (already!) in his senior year at outside linebacker. Safety-receiver Pace Temple has a Wyoming offer plus Ivy League interest; big junior tackle Loudon Vollbrecht landed an Illinois offer, which Vikings coach Rob Wicinski believes is just the tip of the iceberg.
Marmion coach Dan Thorpe said he's got three seniors attracting Bowl Championship Series or Football Championship Subdivision interest: two-way tackle Jack Gauthier, offensive lineman Luke Juriga and running back Jordan Glasgow. The latter two have solid connections. Juriga's father, Jim, played at Illinois, his brother, St. Charles North grad Jake, is a senior linebacker at Navy, and sister Kim is a sophomore volleyball player at Florida Tech. Tough-as-nails Jordan Glasgow has two lineman brothers at Michigan, Ryan and Graham.
West Aurora senior lineman Hayden Sak has no offers, but Blackhawks coach Nate Eimer said Sak attended several Division I camps for long snappers over the summer. West Aurora athlete Drake Spears, still a junior, landed an offer from Illinois and also has the eye of Northwestern, Northern Illinois and Ohio State, where he attended camps.
North Dakota State is looking at St. Charles North linebackers Carson Schmitt and Jordan Bergren. The 220-pounders are attracting MAC and state interest. Juniors Dom Sidari and Jack Glavin both are getting looks from Northern Illinois, noted North Stars coach Rob Pomazak, who added that junior offensive lineman Nick Koenig interests North Carolina State and Big Ten schools including Michigan State. Being 6-foot-7, 300 pounds doesn't hurt.
On the other side of town St. Charles East's three-year starting lineman Brennan Bosch -- on Monday voted a team captain along with Mo Flanigan, Blake Fialka and Ramon Lopez -- brings offers from Butler and Illinois. Dayton and Grand Valley State also are recruiting the all-Upstate Eight lineman, and Indiana is interested as well. Both Flanigan and Lopez are getting looks, coach Bryce Farquhar said.
"Edgy" Tim O'Halloran of Rivals.com has a couple Aurora Christian seniors on his radar -- 6-foot-4 quarterback Austin Bray with much state interest; and lineman Brock Whelan, a Minooka transfer, with looks from big guns like Michigan State, Oklahoma, Iowa and Northern Illinois.
Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly said he's gotten "a lot of responses" on tape of his own son, receiver Connor, running back Isaac Swithers, strong-armed center Zack Thielk and linebacker Danny Hammermeister.
Nothing concrete at Aurora Central, though Chargers coach Brian Casey calls quarterback Matt Rahn and back Roman Padilla "potential Ivy League guys." Casey added linemen Mikey Malawski and Jeff Kus and receiver Colin Baillie among players who should reach the next level.
Quarterback, and change
Kaneland enters the 2014 season uncharacteristically, lacking a varsity-tested quarterback.
Knights coach Tom Fedderly sees this as no problem with junior Jake Marczuk and senior Owen Korpela vying for the spot after consecutive three-year reigns of Joe Camiliere and Drew David.
"I'm really comfortable," Fedderly said. "You take a look and see what the strength of those kids is and you play to those strengths. We don't always need the same kind of type of kid at quarterback because our offense is so flexible.
"Jake doesn't have to come in and be Drew David, and Drew didn't have to come in and be Joe."
Marczuk has running and throwing capability while Korpela, who saw limited reps as a backup to David, is more the pocket passer. Both will benefit from the coaching of Kaneland graduate Eric Delaney, among a span of all-state Knights quarterbacks that includes both Camiliere and David and predecessors Boone Thorgesen and Jody Henningson.
"Eric does a great job," Fedderly said. "He really works a lot with their fundamentals and helps with just the basic drills and stuff we do with throwing motion, works on their accuracy and footwork. He's a really, really good teacher."
Fedderly, kicking off this week's practices from 5-8 p.m., said Delaney serves as a "buffer" between Fedderly and the quarterbacks.
"That's a great thing," the head coach said.
Regardless of Fedderly's comfort level with these new quarterbacks, there's no debate: "This guy's got big shoes to step into this year."
Change is good
From tweaks to implosion, change in conference affiliation has been rampant.
In the DuPage Valley Conference what began with last year's departure of West Chicago to the Upstate Eight and the arrival of Lake Park from the same, continues with West Aurora and Glenbard East shifting to the Upstate Eight, specifically the Valley Division. West Chicago, a UEC Valley affiliate in 2013, heads to the UEC River for a balance of eight teams on each side.
That balance will be disrupted when Metea Valley, Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley are slated to join the DuPage Valley in 2015-16, boosting that league to nine teams and no doubt creating further change in the Upstate Eight.
The Northern Illinois Big 12 shuffled some, as the West division lost Streator to the Interstate Eight and Dixon to the Big Northern West. To form two equal football divisions of five teams Rochelle was moved to the West from the East
This forces Big 12 teams like Kaneland to land another nonconference game -- the Knights get Brooks, Marshall and Rich Central, crossovers Rochelle and LaSalle-Peru and their East slate. The conference also had to appeal to the IHSA to receive a playoff representative for each of the five-team divisions.
"After this year, something's got to be done," said Fedderly, unopposed to a 10-team league.
There was nothing minor about how the Suburban Christian Conference was gutted. A massive change inspired mainly by some members' football-based dissatisfaction, as of the 2015-16 school year the storied league will dissolve.
This fall the football and boys soccer programs of Marmion, St. Francis, Montini and Aurora Christian will play in the Chicago Catholic League, the first three in the CCL Green for football with Aurora Christian in the White.
Seven former SCC schools including Aurora Central Catholic and Wheaton Academy have joined the Metro Suburban, enlarging a group of five to East and West divisions of six teams apiece. Ex-SCC power Marian Central joined the East Suburban Catholic Conference.
ACC coach Brian Casey admitted, "I think everyone's a little disappointed" with the split but acknowledged there's more parity in a Metro West that for football offers ACC, Wheaton Academy, IC Catholic, Fenton, Glenbard South and Riverside-Brookfield.
"The gap between the top and the bottom is much narrower than before," Casey said.
Marmion, St. Francis and Montini successfully petitioned the CCL to accept all its boys teams starting in 2015-16, with Montini, St. Francis and Rosary girls programs entering the ESCC. Except for football, next school year Aurora Christian boys and girls programs will join the Northeastern Athletic Conference.
"We're excited, seeing different people, it'll prepare us for the playoffs," Marmion coach Dan Thorpe said.
Two new head coaches officially made their debuts Monday -- Aurora Christian's David Beebe and St. Charles East's Bryce Farquhar. Both are familiar faces in their programs.
Beebe served as defensive coordinator for his brother, Don, since the two took over the Eagles in 2004. Together they led the program to three state championship games, winning Class 3A in consecutive seasons, 2011 and 2012.
When Don Beebe officially announced his resignation at the team awards banquet last December it was a natural David would carry on the mission.
It wasn't such a slam dunk for Farquhar (pronounced "forker"), an in-house candidate who beat out 40 applicants after five-year head coach Mike Fields' resignation on March 17.
On Monday the 34-year-old Farquhar, head coach of the sophomore Saints' tri-championship with Batavia and St. Charles North last year in the Upstate Eight River, said the practice pace was solid for his first day. He credited his players and coaching staff, which includes five former Saints players.
"I might be the head coach, but really it's the kids and the assistant coaches who make a lot of this happen."
The feeling seems mutual.
"Coach Farquhar is awesome," noted Saints senior lineman Brennan Bosch. "He's really brought a whole new attitude and sense of confidence to our team. He has developed us into a tough-minded team which has made us much more confident."
Circled in red
Following are a few intriguing games for Weeks 1-9. All are scheduled for Friday.
Week 1, Aug. 29: Elk Grove at St. Charles North; Kaneland at Brooks; Oswego at Batavia; South Elgin at St. Charles East.
Week 2, Sept. 5: Aurora Central Catholic at Lisle; Batavia at Glenbard North; Richards at Geneva; St. Charles East at Jacobs
Week 3, Sept. 12: Marmion at St. Francis; Rich Central at Kaneland; South Elgin at West Aurora.
Week 4, Sept. 19: Batavia at St. Charles East; Geneva at St. Charles North; Marmion at Providence.
Week 5, Sept. 26: Bishop McNamara at Aurora Christian; IC Catholic at Aurora Central Catholic; DeKalb at Kaneland; St. Charles North at Batavia.
Week 6, Oct. 3: Fenwick at Marmion; Geneva at St. Charles East; Kaneland at Sycamore.
Week 7, Oct. 10: Montini at St. Francis; Morris at Kaneland; West Aurora at Waubonsie Valley.
Week 8: Oct. 17: Geneva at Batavia; Marmion at Aurora Christian; St. Charles East at St. Charles North; West Aurora at East Aurora.
Week 9, Oct. 24: Aurora Central Catholic at Wheaton Academy; Glenbard East at West Aurora; Marmion at Montini; Rochelle at Kaneland.