Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What is it about Batavia football...

...that engenders such loyalty? What am I talking about?

Dennis Piron (above, left), who is 21-2 after only two seasons at the helm of the Bulldogs, toiled for 18 years as defensive coordinator under long-time head coach Mike Gaspari (above, right) before being tapped for the top job. Gaspari, in turn, stepped up from assistant to pilot the Upstate Eight program for 26 years before making room for his protege. (And even then, Gaspari stayed on as offensive coordinator!)

So, what I'd like to know is, how in the world did Gaspari keep a talented guy like Piron from taking another head coaching job somewhere else? (And don't tell me Piron didn't have any offers.)

When Piron took the job back in 2010, he was quoted as saying that Gaspari was "the most influential man in my entire life." Whoa. Not only that, but Piron "would have been just as honored to continue in my current role with Mike forever and ever."

Now, by my reckoning, Piron, at age 48, has spent about half his life at Batavia High School. And it hasn't always been a day at the beach. In fact, the 1983 Batavia graduate, who played tight end and defensive end, suffered through an 0-9 season in his senior year. Wouldn't that be enough to make most people flee in the opposite direction?

But not Piron, apparently. After attending nearby North Central College, he returned to his alma mater to teach math and coach track. Before long, though, Piron was back on the sidelines, this time as an assistant to Gaspari.

The Bulldogs open their 2013 season a week from Friday against Glenbard North and its star running back, Justin Jackson. Batavia bested the Panthers last year on the road, 42-41. Can Piron make it two in a row? How on earth does he plan on containing Jackson, arguably the best running back in the state of Illinois? And even if they do win, the Bulldogs have to host a tough Richards team the following week. (Who's responsible for this schedule?)

Only after these two bruising non-conference games does Batavia begin its conference schedule, on the road against archrival Geneva. I wonder how well Piron is sleeping these days.

I plan on attending that first game against Glenbard North. Last year, the Panthers recovered from the loss to win the next twelve straight before falling to Mount Carmel in the 8A final. The Bulldogs, of course, went on to an undefeated regular season only to come up short in the first round of the playoffs against Downers Grove North (one of my teams to watch this year).

Either way, it will be a great chance to see two of the area's very best football programs. I can't wait!

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