Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Last year: Marmion 14, Batavia 7.
Outlook: If Keith Jackson were here, he might exclaim: "Whoah, Nellie!" These two teams should ram each other with brute force and abandon particularly in the wake of last season's decision. In the 2010 opener, Marmion rallied with a late 73-yard touchdown drive, then stopped Batavia's own comeback bid with an interception in the end zone in the final 30 seconds. Most of the principals from Marmion's big win, and its Class 6A runner-up team, have since graduated, at least on offense. Only running back Garret Becker and offensive lineman Ryan Glasgow return from last year's starting unit at least in theory. The entire defensive line, guys like Tyler Boyd and Mickey "Moose" Eberth, will merely flip over to play offense, where several of them rotated in last year anyhow. As the No. 8 ranked team in Class 7A progresses toward a Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division race against Montini that's Week 3 48-minute games against teams like Batavia will gauge their progress. Of interest will be how Cadets coach Dan Thorpe handles his quarterback situation. With steady Bobby Peters having graduated, the coach indicated both senior Dan DiBartolo and junior Charlie Faunce will play, perhaps even bringing in plays the way coaches usually use receivers or running backs. Although the defense graduated tackles monster T.J. Lally, among others, it is a stout 5-2 scheme stocked with returners, which will provide Batavia senior quarterback Noel Gaspari and his offensive line all they can handle. The three-year starting signalcaller himself will want to rally after tossing essentially the game-ending pick in last year's opener. All of the Bulldogs, in alum Dennis Piron's first year as head coach, will seek a great start in a season in which they could challenge Geneva for the Upstate Eight Conference River Division championship. Gaspari, who completed 64 percent of his passes last season, will have a vast, open playbook to target returning receivers Zach Strittmatter and Evan Zeddies. If there's inexperience it's on the offensive line aside from all-conference tackle Nick Pappas, and that's important considering Batavia also needs to open running lanes or Marmion's physical brutes will just run downhill. Defensively, though, the Bulldogs are stocked with returning starters throughout, including three-year starting lineman Alec Lyons, all-conference safety Kevin Schroeder and 280-pound tackle Mac Brown. Prime-time kickers are not excluded from this contest: Batavia offers returner Brandon Clabough while Marmion loads up with A.J. Friedman, a field position ace. That and turnovers might be the difference right there.
Next week: Fenwick at Marmion, Sept. 2; Batavia at Plainfield East. 2.