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Druley: Geneva football players learn Cardinal rule about rivalries

Geneva seniors Billy Douds and T.J. Miller recently committed to continue their football careers at North Central College, an NCAA Division III program in Naperville that has seen its share of Batavia alumni through the years.

The connection hardly troubles either Viking, who will join Batavia lineman Ryan Minniti as Cardinals defensive recruits in the fall.

"Once you get to college, you kind of all get along," Douds said. "You don't forget, it but you kind of coincide with each other on it."

Talk about perspective. Wasn't it just five days ago that the schools' girls basketball teams vied for the 4A Addison Trail Sectional title?

Douds and Miller, former basketball players themselves, have forged their own paths to college football.

Miller, a linebacker/safety, followed the more traditional route, progressing after starting with the Tri-Cities Chargers youth program as a child. An all-Upstate Eight Conference River Division selection as a running back last season – Douds and Minniti earned nods as defensive linemen – Miller will be just a one-platoon player in college.

He played both outside linebacker and safety for the Vikings at various points and projects to take a similar role at North Central.

"It's basically the same," Miller said. "For the type of safety, I'll play down more on the run. I still have to work on pass coverage, but I know I'll be comfortable doing things in the box at the start."

Football lexicon once eluded Douds, even though his family is deeply-rooted in the sport. His great-grandfather, Forrest, was the Pittsburgh Steelers' first coach in 1933, and his father and grandfather both played collegiately.

Douds spent his own time in the trenches growing up, albeit as an aspiring motocross driver. He had never played team sports until giving up motocross late in middle school. Regular commutes to to Byron, Joliet, Mendota and Waterman for races added up, along with a leg broken in three places.

"I was really into that and it just got too expensive and a little dangerous with my parents and everything," Douds said.

Douds soon got up to speed on the gridiron, where he used a built-in size advantage. A first-time wrestler in the fall, he has grown to 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds.

North Central finished 13-1 in 2013 and advanced to the Division III semifinals for the first time. The Cardinals have won seven straight College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin titles.

"I like how close it is. I like the location. It's right in downtown Naperville," Miller said. "They've got good academics, the football team is one of the top D-III programs, so all that together stuck out."

So what if he'll be wearing red, a mainstay of Batavia? Miller is playing college football, and that's all that matters.

North swimmers stay optimistic: St. Charles North boys swimmers tossed their figurative caps into the IHSA state meet team race after finishing 10th in the program's lone final on Saturday.

The 200-yard freestyle relay of sophomores Joe Myrhe and Stephan Hutchinson and seniors Ross Davis and Collin Bawolek earned the North Stars six team points. The contribution proved especially meaningful for Davis and Bawolek, who both made their state debuts at Evanston.

"I'm a senior this year and I started out in Lane 8, which is, like, the slow lane," Davis said. "So to move every year, it's really exciting to be able to come to state."

Davis plans to study at Alabama and said Bawolek is bound for Minnesota. Apart from the occasional rec center swim, however, regular pool hours are not in either athlete's forecast.

Myhre, also in his first IHSA postseason after moving from Indiana, figures to form a solid core with Hutchinson in the near-term. North Stars coach Rob Rooney has stressed that the process to add to that number begins with the club season.

"We can definitely build off this year. Alot," Rooney said. "What I want to see is, obviously, a little more commitment. ... I look at what Naperville Central's done. They went from scoring no points a year ago, I believe, to being in the fight for a trophy [finishing fourth this weekend]. That's pretty impressive. You've got to look at the glass half-full, not half-empty."

• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.

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