/columns/around-the-region/midwest/2011/tough-to-be-on-top

It's tough to be on top

More news about: Benedictine
Ben Lockton has 7-1/2 tackles for loss in two games.
Benedictine athletics photo 

Benedictine had one of its best football seasons in school history last year, winning the Northern Athletics Conference and making an appearance in the NCAA playoffs. The Eagles, though, are already learning the difficulty of what it takes to repeat.

The Eagles, favorites to win the NATHC again, took last week off to lick its wounds after a taking a 38-20 thumping from Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin foe North Park. It doesn’t get much easier for Benedictine.

The Eagles will face 2-1 Kalamazoo on the road before opening conference play against the two teams picked to finish right behind them – at Concordia (Ill.) and home against Aurora.

Benedictine coach Jon Cooper said it’s not necessarily a good think to be picked as conference favorite.

“I received a congratulatory email about the preseason poll that I deleted immediately,” Cooper said. “In our league, the team that has been predicted to win has never won. That’s bad history for us. The team that won it always finished 4-6 the next year. I hope it’s not wrong this year.”

If Benedictine will overcome its early stumble, it will do it on the legs of 5-8 running back John Borsellino. Borsellino, who also returns punts and kickoffs for the Eagles, already has a 100-yard game to his credit.

“John is an impact player,” Cooper said. “People kick away from him. In one game, he ran one back 59 yards that helped us with field position. He’s also a very good receiver along with being a good runner so we can keep him on the field.”

Cooper said he expects senior running back Derek Hitt will return back from an injury to give Borsellino a rest from time to time.

“He wasn’t an impact player for us last year because he’s had a stretch of injuries where he’s missed some time,” Cooper said. “He’s been shuffled around from position to position. We think he can help us take the load off John a little bit. We’ve got a little bit of depth in that position.”

Benedictine will know awfully quick if it will have a chance to repeat, facing Concordia and Aurora in the first two weeks of conference play. Cooper said the Eagles will have to finish drives, something it didn’t do against North Park, if it plans to score enough points to win those games. Defensively, he said the Eagles can’t get ahead of themselves and get back to the fundamentals of tackles and playing solid run and pass defense.

“Those games are going to be pretty intense,” Cooper said. “We can’t make the mistakes we’ve made this season so far. Concordia and Aurora are very good football teams. Our games with them last year could have gone either way, so those will be good games.”

The fight starts soon for Benedictine.

North Central continues to pour it on

The Cardinals had its second big game offensively, this time scoring a whopping 86 points against Olivet’s 14. The week before the Cardinals, coming off of an opening day loss to Redlands, scored 70 points against NAIA foe Bethel (Tenn.). Before you think North Central was trying to run up the score, the defense returned two interceptions for touchdowns and there was punt return for a touchdown. Two of those involved the Cardinals’ Caleb Bednarz over a four-minute span in the third quarter. Bednarz returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown at the 14:08 mark of the third quarter. Then with 10:46 left in the quarter, Bednarz took a punt and returned it 76 yards for another touchdown. Backup running back Mike Boettcher, who didn’t take a handoff until the second half, rushed 11 times for 121 yards and two touchdowns. While North Central’s 86 points was the third most in school history, it was the most points the Cardinals had scored since 1958, when it beat Elmhurst 86-0.

Franklin bounces back

After failing the score against No. 1-ranked UW-Whitewater on Sept. 10, the Grizzlies found the end zone often in a 49-26 victory over Bluffton in its Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference opener. Running back Craig Reece, who was bottled up against the Warhawks, rushed for 155 yards on 16 carries. Quarterback Jonny West threw for 324 yards on 22 for 33 passing. Franklin churned out 30 first downs in the process and led 42-14 by halftime.

Game of the Week

Benedictine vs. Kalamazoo at Western Michigan University: Kalamazoo, a member of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, has had impressive wins over Bluffton and Rose-Hulman and could provide a stiff challenge to Benedictine. Also, the game will be played at 30,200-seat Waldo Stadium on the campus of Western Michigan because of renovations being done to Kalamazoo’s stadium, adding further intrigue. It’s will be another tough game before the Eagles begin NATHC play.

Clyde Hughes

Clyde Hughes has been writing sports at various times over the past 24 years, covering everything from high school, college and sporting events. A native of football-crazed Texas, Hughes works in Indiana and has written for numerous newspapers and magazines.
2003-04 columnist: John Regenfuss

Previous Columns

November 14, 2017
Titans are giant killers
Illinois Wesleyan's season started with an upset of a perennial national power. The momentum fueled...
November 7, 2017
Green Knights out for revenge
A suffocating defense has carried St. Norbert to its golden opportunity. A win in the MWC championsh...
November 1, 2017
Cardinals hanging on in tough CCIW
The CCIW is especially deep this year. North Central is the only team that controls its own destiny,...
October 24, 2017
Muskies power starts up front
You can't have a prolific offense without a cohesive offensive line. Lakeland has both, a big reason...
October 17, 2017
Monmouth not resting on past
The Scots won 26 games over the past three seasons, but understand that 2017 is a whole new...
October 10, 2017
Big Blue have more to prove
Millikin notched a huge CCIW win over Wheaton on Saturday. The Big Blue now want to prove that this...
October 4, 2017
Benedictine is battle-tested
The Eagles learned from their grueling non-conference slate. Now they have their sights set on...
September 28, 2017
Midwest's best
Three players from the region are leading the nation in their respective categories through Week 4....
September 20, 2017
The long road back
Rose-Hulman had its first taste of the playoffs in 2016. That just made the Fightin' Engineers...
September 13, 2017
Off to the races
Lake Forest's Joey Valdivia had a breakout 2016 season. That's in the past, and he's already on pace...
September 6, 2017
Titanic upset
Illinois Wesleyan proved that anything is possible, pulling off Week 1's biggest shocker. Now the...
November 14, 2016
Uncharted territory
Rose-Hulman is in the playoffs for the first time in the program's 118-year history. The Fightin'...
November 8, 2016
Grinnell's super stopper
The Pioneers are searching for their first win of the season, but have the nation's leading tackler....
November 2, 2016
The waiting game
Wheaton's loss to North Central cost the Thunder control of their playoff destiny. With at least two...
 • More Division III football news releases

Other Columnists