BATAVIA — When you win a state championship like Batavia did, the celebration tends to last awhile.
But at some point, even the defending IHSA Class 6A football champs have to turn their attention to the next season. And that’s precisely what the Bulldogs were doing Thursday night.
Batavia was one of four teams participating in a 7-on-7 event at Mooseheart. And for the Bulldogs – who are significantly depleted at the offensive skill positions following the graduation of stars such as quarterback Micah Coffey and running back Anthony Scaccia – it was the perfect time to see what they have in the next wave of starters.
Coach Dennis Piron listed numerous names that could take over in the touchdown creation department at running back, quarterback and wide receiver. So who exactly will those guys taking over for the departed Bulldogs be?
In the backfield, Piron said Blake Crowder will receive the majority of the handoffs. Still, after a year of workhorse running from Scaccia, it could be a little more of a running back by committee.
“Noah Frazier is moving to fullback. At 225 pounds, about the strongest kid we’ve ever had at our school. Fast and mean, and he’ll get the ball and we’ll see if people can tackle him," Piron said. "And he’ll do a real nice job there. Blake Crowder, who was our backup tailback, is back this year. Has looked exceptional in camp. He is somebody that I think has huge explosiveness, breakaway speed.
“I think that Crowder’s the guy to start out the season,” Piron continued. “So we’ve got a number of guys, and we did a lot of that a couple years ago. Last year it was Scaccia. But the two years prior, we had about five or six guys we rotated at all the back positions. I can see a little bit of that.”
Evan Acosta was on full-time quarterback duty Thursday night, and it’ll be him and Kyle Niemiec looking to succeed Coffey under center. Piron also likes what he’s seeing from his wideouts, who sounded like a starting five for a basketball team when the head coach listed off all their 6-foot-plus heights.
“We have some nice size in those skill positions at the receiver spot that we think will create a dilemma for people, so I’ve been very, very happy with that,” he said.
But while it’s the skill positions that will be one of the main focuses heading into the 2014 season, the key to the Bulldogs’ title defense might be in the trenches, where Piron is thrilled by the prospects of his offensive and defensive linemen.
He said that an experienced offensive line will allow the new quarterbacks time to grow, and he added that opposing teams will have a tough time trying to block an exceptional pass rush.
“A good way to start out is with two defensive ends from your state-championship team who got after the quarterback greater than anyone in the history of our school,” he said. “That’s a scary thought.”
Celebration time might not be over just yet. Heck, it might never end. But the 2014 season is approaching, and that means it’s time to go back to work. Practices start Aug. 11.
“I think everybody celebrated while they continued to work," Piron said. "They took a little break, got their bodies healthy. Some guys had some things they had to get fixed up, surgeries. You need that recovery time, but when they got back to work, they got back to work pretty hard. I think it shows."
“This has always been a group of kids who had to work harder for what they wanted, and I think that hard work is really going to pay off this season.”