If Week 1’s one-point victories by the Batavia and Kaneland football teams demonstrated anything, it’s how much carry-over winning habits can have on a program from one year to the next.
The Bulldogs and Knights each went 12-1 last season, advancing to the state semifinals in their respective classes. While both teams welcome their share of newcomers, both have plenty of returnees who benefited greatly from experiencing plenty of big-pressure games last season – and winning most of them.
So when both teams found themselves in hairy situations on opening week 2012, it’s little surprise that both teams found ways to prevail.
Batavia’s win has to be considered the more impressive, considering the Bulldogs were battling DuPage Valley Conference power Glenbard North. A 28-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Micah Coffey to Michael Moffatt with 1:40 left in the game proved the decisive score in the Bulldogs’ 42-41 victory, but only after the Bulldogs stopped Glenbard North on a two-point conversion try 47 seconds later.
The victory earned Batavia statewide acclaim and provided instant credibility that this year’s team has the chance to have a similarly special season to the 2011 team.
Giving up 41 points is not what the Bulldogs aspire to defensively, but it’s unlikely a Batavia opponent the rest of the regular season will match the offensive weaponry possessed by the Panthers.
If Batavia can bring the week-to-week focus that last year’s team exhibited and stay relatively healthy, the defending Upstate Eight Conference River champions are in for another special ride.
Kaneland, meanwhile, had to scurry back from a 24-6, second-half deficit to rally past Brooks, 25-24, on Saturday in Chicago.
The Knights didn’t play anywhere close to their capabilities in the first half but found their footing in time to win their 20th-straight regular season game, dating to the final week of the 2009 season.
Returning quarterback Drew David exhibited a valuable characteristic – the ability to brush off in-game struggles and maintain confidence – connecting with receiver Zack Martinelli on two touchdown passes in the second half, the second of which accounted for the winning score with 3:11 to play.
With the game in peril, the Knights scored the game’s final three touchdowns. That’s the sign of a team that not only is in good physical condition, but one conditioned to winning games.
Bravo for Branstetter: With the news this week of a coaching change in the Marmion wrestling program, here’s a final salute to the job done by outgoing Cadets coach Dean Branstetter.
A strong case can be made that Branstetter is one of the three or four most successful coaches in our coverage area, regardless of sport.
Branstetter steadily built the Marmion program from scratch in 2002 into a bona fide state powerhouse, culminating with a whopping five IHSA Class 2A individual state champions in 2010-11.
For an encore last season, Marmion – despite losing a handful of key wrestlers to transfer – crowned two more state champs and notched four state place-winners.
Good luck to new Cadets coach Ryan Cumbee – replacing a coaching legend is never easy, and Branstetter deserves to be held in that regard.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.