Football teams still playing this late in the season have to expect cold weather, and today’s state semifinal playoff games won’t disappoint on that count.
With the high temperature for today forecast for 23 degrees in Rockford, the Batavia football team’s 1 p.m. Class 6A state semifinal at Rockford Boylan will be the coldest game in memory for most – if not all – the contestants.
Aurora Christian could face even more frigid conditions considering the 5 p.m. kickoff time against visiting Stillman Valley in today’s Class 3A semi.
Football is a sport for tough guys, and that’s the approach players plan to take.
“My mom keeps telling me to wear long sleeves and stuff but I’m not doing that,” Batavia junior defensive end Josh Leonhard said. “We’re defense, we’re running around a lot. I just don’t think it will be a problem.”
Bulldogs coach Dennis Piron also minimized the weather’s potential impact on the day.
“In the last couple weeks we’ve had some days in the 30s and 20s for practice, and the kids did fine,” Piron said. “It’s not going to affect anybody. Once you get playing, you get all warm. It isn’t like you’re out there standing, freezing your butt off. You’re excited. You’re expending energy.”
Maintaining a grip on the football could be more of a concern in the numbing conditions but Piron quipped that standout running back Anthony Scaccia might be immune.
“Scaccia’s a high-energy kid – he gives off a lot of heat,” Piron said. “I don’t think he’s probably too concerned about it.”
Challenging field conditions also figure to be in play at Titan Stadium, though Boylan coach John Cacciatore said the temperature plunge could actually be helpful on that front.
“Right now we would call it a mud field,” Cacciatore said. “We’re a grass field, it’s just this time of year after the beatings of football and soccer, it’s [in rough condition]. If I’m hearing things correctly, on Saturday it’ll be 19 degrees and it might be frozen solid, so it might not be so bad by the time we get to Saturday afternoon.”
Piron is much more concerned about top-seeded Boylan’s team than the weather. The Titans enjoyed consecutive, unbeaten state championship seasons in 2010-11 under former coach Dan Appino before going 11-1 in Cacciatore’s first season and starting this year 12-0.
That run of dominance includes soundly beating Marmion in the 6A state title game in 2010.
“I don’t know if people locally really know what playing Rockford Boylan is all about,” Piron said. “It’s not unlike playing Mount Carmel. It’s not unlike playing Montini. I mean, that’s who you’re going up against.”
While Aurora Christian’s game this evening will begin after sunset, the Eagles might be better insulated against the cold than Batavia.
That’s because the Eagles – with a much smaller roster than the Bulldogs – rely on many more two-way performers than Batavia, as is the norm in Class 3A.
“When guys play both ways, they don’t get cold,” Eagles coach Don Beebe said.
All-state teams released: The Illinois Football Coaches Assocation All-State teams have been released.
The local honorees: Legend Smith (Class 3A: Aurora Christian, Sr., RB); Julian Rios (Class 4A, Aurora Central Catholic, Sr., RB); James Butler (Class 5A, St. Francis, Sr., RB); Drew David (Class 5A, Kaneland, Sr., QB); Michael Moffatt (Class 6A, Batavia, Sr., DB); Anthony Scaccia (Class 6A, Batavia, Sr., RB) and Chase Gianacakos (Class 7A, St. Charles North, Sr., OL).