AURORA – Two of the area’s premier football programs highlighted the final week of their summer programs Wednesday by using one another as a measuring stick.
Batavia visited Aurora Christian for a 7-on-7 scrimmage Wednesday morning, a natural considering the interconnectivity between the teams’ coaching staffs.
Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe was a contemporary of Batavia coach Dennis Piron’s when Piron attended Batavia and Beebe went to Kaneland, and Beebe also has helped train the sons of Piron and Batavia offensive coordinator Mike Gaspari in the offseason.
“I feel like I have a really good friendship with coach Beebe. We go back to high school,” Piron said. “I’ve known him since I was probably a sophomore, freshman in high school, so 1980, ’79. So Don and I go way back.”
Beebe compared Batavia to his alma mater, Kaneland, as a quality program in the area that makes for a productive summer workout partner. Beebe said he and Piron keep in touch regularly despite playing in different conferences and postseason classes.
“We’ll go [to] lunch once or twice a year and just kind of reflect on old things, discuss our programs and what he’s doing, what I’m doing and just feed off each other, which is kind of neat,” Beebe said.
Both coaches have plenty to brag about if they choose.
The Eagles are coming off consecutive IHSA Class 3A state championships, while Piron has yet to lose a regular season game through his first two seasons as Batavia’s head coach.
Piron said the Eagles’ perennially impressive play at the skill positions makes them a worthy adversary in 7-on-7 play.
“This was something we kind of pointed to at the end of the [summer] to try and gauge where we were at as a program, knowing they’re going to be a state-caliber program every year and knowing their level of competition,” Piron said.
The Bulldogs close their summer program later this week, and Piron likes Batavia’s chances to keep the program’s momentum rolling. He said senior Anthony Thielk is proving to be “uniquely special” in his new role at middle linebacker, and some of the program’s younger players are beginning to step forward.
“We need for the junior class to kind of raise their level of play, and I’m starting to see it with some of their players,” Piron said. “We have a very, very good senior class, and we’re well aware of that, kids who have worked very hard. And our juniors have worked very hard in the offseason, but it’s a whole other thing to come out here.
“You’ve got to assert yourself, you’ve got to be aggressive, you’ve got to step in and make plays. I don’t know if it’s the right word, but you can not be shy. We’re pleased with I think the growth of a number of our junior players overall in strengthening our squad.”
Batavia has an obvious advantage in competing against smaller programs such as Aurora Christian since the Bulldogs platoon almost exclusively, whereas many of Aurora Christian’s premier athletes play on both sides of the ball.
Not surprisingly, the Eagles appeared to show fatigue midway through Wednesday’s scrimmage, but Beebe was proud of the team catching a second wind to close the morning strong.
“What I was encouraged about is mentally I thought we came out of it,” Beebe said. “Everybody’s going to get tired. The teams that mentally can get through that and keep making plays – I thought at the end there we were making some big plays, and that was very encouraging.”
Both teams start the season Aug. 30 at home, with the Bulldogs welcoming Glenbard North and Aurora Christian taking on DuSable.
Teams are allowed to begin preseason practice Aug. 14.