Neibch savoring chance to play in South Carolina after leaving Batavia
As the conflicting news unfolded last week between Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the Illinois High School Association, the department of public health and the state board of education regarding the 2020-'21 basketball season, Kyle Neibch kept close attention to the latest developments -- from about 800 miles away in his new home of Fort Mill, S.C.
Neibch, a two-sport standout who would have been a junior at Batavia this fall, moved to South Carolina in September. He's the school's starting quarterback and looking forward to the basketball season that began this week.
He has lifelong friends in Illinois who have no idea what will happen after the IHSA and the state agencies issued opposite declarations about the upcoming season.
"We were following that all week last week and it made me very upset and my family up there upset and family down here upset to hear that was the circumstances up in Illinois," said Neibch, who moved to South Carolina with his parents and has relatives living in Wheaton.
Fortunately for Neibch, he knows he'll play. South Carolina is wrapping up football this week with basketball also playing as scheduled.
That doesn't mean it was an easy decision to move.
"It was really hard to leave," Neibch said. "I have been playing football with my friends since kindergarten. I talk to them about what news they have got and what their season is going to look like. Every once in awhile (Batavia football) Coach (Dennis) Piron and (basketball) Coach (Jim) Nazos will reach out and see how I'm doing down here. It's nice they do that."
The Neibchs picked Fort Mill, located in the northern part of the state, because it's close to his father's job in Charlotte. Kyle also knew another transfer, Daniel Penosky from Wheaton Academy, who moved to the area and liked it.
Neibch has gone from a Batavia team regularly one of the state's best to a young team that hasn't won a game yet, but he didn't hesitate saying 0-5 beats no football every day of the week.
"That's what we think every Friday night is it's better to be playing football than sitting on our couches in Batavia," Neibch said. "We have eight or nine sophomores up, kind of in the middle of a rebuilding process. It's just cool to be part of. Just keep trying to get better each week."
Neibch said football made the move easier. His school is on an A/B block schedule and is planning a five-day return to in-person learning in January.
"That was one thing I was afraid of was coming down here and not having friends," Neibch said. "Being on the football team helps a lot. The guys loved me coming and took me in like a brother. They have full support of me which is really cool being here only for a month and they already have bought into me being their quarterback."
After his last football game this week Neibch will jump into basketball, a transition he was used to at Batavia after long football playoff runs and quickly switching gears to the Thanksgiving tournament.
"I can't wait for basketball," Neibch said. "I feel like our team is going to be a really good team. The Chicago area has a lot of great basketball. That would be the only difference, the pace down here isn't quite as fast as up there."
While he misses friends and coaches, last week's news in Illinois left Neibch thankful again to be in a new state -- with thoughts of his former teammates always in the forefront of his mind.
"I think about them every day," Neibch said. "I feel terrible for the situation they are going through. I feel so grateful to be able to be down here and play sports. I really play for them because I know they are in jeopardy for the season right now. I pray for them every day and hope they get out on the football field or basketball court and do what they want to do and get scholarship offers and just have fun. Because high school only comes one time."