A change in direction
|John Borsellino hasn't had
much room to run in the Benedictine backfield, so the Eagles made
room for him elsewhere.
Photo by Ralph Greenslade for D3sports.com
It’s hard to imagine to think halftime the season’s third game as a turning point, but it will be interesting to look back at Benedictine at the end of the season to see how it’s dramatic comeback 32-28 victory over Albion affected the Eagles.
Benedictine, the defending Northern Athletic Conference champions and favorite to win another title, was getting hammered at home – homecoming even on its Lisle, Ill. campus. Trailing 28-7 at halftime, coach Jon Cooper heard one of his players say as the team left the locker room, “Let’s turn this season around right now.”
“That was probably an appropriate statement,” Cooper said. “We didn’t come out of the gate with our best foot forward this season. This was an important half in some of our players’ minds and we were able to get it done.”
The Eagles not only shutout Albion in the second half, but solidified its passing game behind transfer Cyle Schultz. Schultz completed 18 of 31 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns in leading the comeback. Cooper said Schultz has given the Eagles a new dimension from its run-oriented offense. That wrinkle will come in handy when Benedictine opens conference play Saturday, Sept. 29 against Concordia (Wis.).
“Cyle is a transfer from Wayne State in Nebraska,” Cooper said. “He’s a very good athlete and a very good passer. It’s been interesting to see him assimilate into our offense and see how he’s transforming us a lit. Now, we’re still planning on lining up in the I-formation and doing some things there, but it’s nice to have Cyle back there.”
The emergence of Schultz hardly means that Benedictine is moving away from its offensive workhorse, All-NATHC running back John Borsellino. In fact, it’s Borsellino who’s emerging from his recent slot in the backfield to work out of the slot.
While Borsellino rushed for only 7 yards on seven carries, he caught nine passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Borsellino provided the back breaker with a 77-yard kickoff return after the Eagles picked up a safety in the fourth quarter.
"It's something I've done through high school and when I was at Illinois State I played receiver," Borsellino said after the game. "I played running back, but call me what you want to call me, I don't really care. I'm just out there to help the team."
“It’s kind of a Reggie Bush situation because John’s an all-purpose back,” Cooper said. “He can line up in the slot and catch the ball out of the backfield. We did some things a little differently from the past, still do some things. We need to use what it is in arsenal. Cyle’s skill set is a little different from what we had before.”
Cooper said he felt his team even took a step forward on defense, despite giving up 28 points in the first half to Albion. He said his defense is a little younger than he first expected, giving up 32.7 points per game. Cooper said taking these lumps now will make them better in the conference race.
“We’ve got some new kids playing there because of some injuries,” Cooper said. “We thought we would have eight or nine players returning on defense, but it has turned out to be only five or six. It’s more of an experience factor right now. Albion’s a great football team but he held them in the second half. This will help us down the road.”
Cooper said, actually, beating Albion is a sign of the Eagles’ improvement. Albion beat nationally ranked Wheaton 22-21 a week ago. It was that same Wheaton that that humbled Benedictine 48-7 in the opening week of the season.
“We know that every week is a separate entity onto itself,” Cooper said. “When we saw that Albion beat Wheaton, we told our team this is an opportunity for us to show that we’re not the same team that lost to Wheaton to start the season. Being able to face a comparable opponent to Wheaton was huge for us as a football team and it provided some motivation.”
Cooper said, though, for this game to have any impact on the season, the Eagles must continue to make strides on offense and defense.
“There are no sure things,” Cooper said. “The competitiveness of this conference is great. We went 5-2 in the NATHC-MIAA Challenge. Every team in our conference is better and we have to get better. We can’t stay at the same level we’re at right now. We’ve got to improve.”
|Cyle Schultz, left, joined
his brother Chris Schultz on the Benedictine offense.
Photo by Ralph Greenslade for D3sports.com
When Cyle Schultz joined Benedictine from Division II Wayne State in Nebraska, he joined his brother Chris, a senior wide receiver. Chris, who transferred from Wayne State earlier in his career, has caught 12 passes from his brother this season for 117 yards, behind Borsellino’s 17 catches for 248 yards this year.
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