ST. CHARLES – This Batavia football team isn’t making it any easier on itself to shed the comparisons to the 2011 Bulldogs.
The group seems hellbent on matching last year’s team achievement for achievement and took a major step in that direction with Friday’s 19-6 win at St. Charles East.
With cellar-dwelling Elgin the last regular-season contest for 8-0 Batavia next week, it doesn’t take much bravery to project the Bulldogs as table-runners for the second straight regular season. Coach Dennis Piron has yet to lose a regular season game since taking over as head coach last season.
That’s remarkable, especially considering many of last year’s stars are playing Saturdays rather than Fridays these days.
“I can’t stress enough, this is not the same team as last year,” Piron said. “We graduated 12 guys that went to play college football at some level. That’s a lot of kids. I know we have some guys back on both sides of the ball, but this is a whole new football team. We’re really counting on a lot of juniors.”
The Bulldogs have risen to every challenge so far this season, be it a stiff opening night test at Glenbard North or taking down each of its determined Tri-Cities rivals.
Batavia’s slick, multi-facted offense came into Friday’s game having scored 30 or more points each time out this season but it was the defense’s turn to take center stage against the Saints. Batavia made East’s offense appear toothless for large stretches of the game. For one of the first times this season, the Bulldogs played the kind of lights-out defense needed to win deep into November.
The performance was “by far” Batavia’s best defensive outing of the season, said junior defensive end James Millette.
“Our kids did a good job of preparing, and we play very fast, with a high degree of intensity,” Piron said. “A number of our defensive linemen will get after you, [we have] linebackers that hit you and two safeties that just rock you. It’s tough to go against that all night. I mean, you’re beat up when you play us.”
The Bulldogs added a new defensive wrinkle for much of the second half Friday, deploying 6-foot-4 all-state receiver candidate Zach Strittmatter to the secondary to supply the “D” another imposing specimen to go with weight room success stories such as defensive end Marquise Jenkins, linebackers Cullin Rokos and Mickey Watson and Millette.
Friday’s score figured to spread quickly among Batavia football alums, signaling another conference championship coming to B-Town.
“It’s really proud to wear this jersey all around Batavia,” Millette said. “We’re like role models for everybody in the town. It’s really something.”
Sure, the Bulldogs are glad to follow in the footsteps of last year’s dynamite, 12-1 state semifinal team but also intend to carve their own identity.
The distinction they’re most eager to hold onto is that zero in the loss column. Based on what we saw Friday, that’s unlikely to change for quite a while.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.