The calendar reads June and I shake my head in disbelief.
Another school year has come and gone … and I'm still shaking my head in disbelief.
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I'm not sure where the months have vanished to but it's time to reflect upon the 2011-12 high school sports season.
Prairie Ridge 33, Batavia 22, Class 6A state football semifinals.
It may have ended the Bulldogs' memorable gridiron season but this game had it all -- a great atmosphere, great plays by both teams, bone-jarring hits, and a standing-room-only crowd at Bulldog Stadium. Even when Batavia trailed by double digits early in the fourth quarter, you had the feeling that it could stage a late comeback with quarterback Noel Gaspari leading the offense.
The loss snapped the Bulldogs' 12-game winning streak but some consolation can be taken from the fact that Prairie Ridge went on to capture the 6A state title one week later in Champaign.
Batavia 46, Geneva 34, Week 6 of the football season.
The long-standing neighborhood rivalry took on a little extra meaning last fall as both teams put 5-0 records on the line at Burgess Field in Geneva.
An overflow crowd saw the resilient Bulldogs walk off with a hard-fought 46-34 victory despite losing Gaspari to a second-half shoulder injury. Running backs Alec Lyons and Dom Guzaldo sparked the offense for Batavia, which went on to capture the Upstate Eight Conference River Division championship.
Elgin 57, St. Charles East 52, Class 4A regional basketball championship.
It was the rubber game of the 3-game season series between the UEC River foes. Led by sophomore guard Dom Adduci and junior Kendall Stephens, the Saints jumped out to a 10-0 lead in front of a frenzied crowd at St. Charles North.
While the Maroons eventually prevailed, 57-52, the Saints earned a measure of respect and gained some invaluable experience for the future.
In January, I drove to St. Charles East to watch an Illinois Special Olympics basketball game between St. Charles Community Unit School District 303 and District 203. When District 203 canceled its trip due to a snowstorm, the Saints' boys basketball team stepped in and played an impromptu game against the District 303 Special Olympics team.
The District 303 team won, 53-33, but the final score paled in comparison to the pride I left the gym with after watching a life lesson put on by a group of extraordinary high school students, faculty and community members.
Trailing 28-7 at halftime, Batavia rallied for 28 unanswered second-half points on the way to a thrilling 35-28 victory over Niles Notre Dame in the opening round of the Class 6A state football playoffs at Bulldog Stadium.
"It's time to put on the big-boy pants and go on to our next opponent," said Geneva basketball coach Phil Ralston prior to his team's final 3 regular-season games -- all on the road.
Best basketball team I watched
For four consecutive days in late December, I had the privilege of watching eventual Class 3A state basketball champion Peoria compete at the East Aurora Holiday Tournament.
Top individual performances
Last month, Geneva junior pitcher Andy Honiotes fired a 1-hitter with 12 strikeouts, 1 walk and a hit batsman during the Vikings' 4-2 UEC River baseball victory over host Batavia.
St. Charles North junior guard Quinten Payne poured in 22 second-quarter points, including three consecutive 3-pointers, during the North Stars' 71-44 win over Prairie Ridge at the Jacobs Holiday Tournament.
Top individual performance against a local team
York junior guard David Cohn scored 27 of his game-high 32 points in the second half to lift the Dukes past host St. Charles North, 61-56, this past February.
Expect the unexpected
Having scored just 2 runs over its previous 14 innings, St. Charles East's baseball team exploded for 15 hits during a 16-0, 4-1/2 inning rout of South Elgin on April 5. Anthony Sciarrino belted a pair of home runs with 5 RBI, while junior slugger Joe Hoscheit smacked a 2-run home run over the "Green Monster" in straightaway center field.
Almost a year to the day of St. Charles North's 9-8 loss to Moline in the Class 4A state softball championship, the North Stars' girls soccer team dropped a 1-0, 4-overtime decision to Naperville North during last weekend's Class 3A state title contest. While Tom Poulin serves as the North Stars' softball coach, his sister, Ruth Poulin Vostal, is STC North's girls soccer coach.
In mid-April, I wrote a follow-up story on the continued relationship between St. Charles North senior Graham Jackson and former North Stars baseball/basketball standout Zach Hirsch. Hirsch, who now plays baseball at Nebraska, became friends with then-freshman Jackson, who has Asperger's syndrome, when he joined him at his lunchroom table 3 years ago.
It was an act of kindness that has led to bigger and better things for both parties. Jackson, who graduated from STC North last month, plans on attending Elgin Community College next fall.
Not bad for starters
Batavia's football team enjoyed its first-ever 9-0 regular season and reached the Class 6A state semifinals in Dennis Piron's head coaching debut last fall.
Geneva's girls basketball team captured its fourth consecutive 4A regional championship and a UEC River title under the direction of first-year head coach Sarah Meadows.
St. Charles East's basketball team finished 15-13 and earned its first postseason victory over St. Charles North since 2003 during Patrick Woods' rookie season on the bench for the Saints.
Len Asquini, who guided St. Charles East's baseball team to the Class AA state title in 1999, returned to the dugout and helped lead the Saints to their third straight Class 4A regional crown and a 25-11 record this past season.
Tough to say goodbye
In April, longtime Batavia basketball coach Jim Roberts stepped down from the post. Roberts, the school's all-time winningest coach, compiled a 455-269 mark during his illustrious 27-year career.
Kevin O'Connor, who guided Marmion's soccer team to a 253-104-36 record in 16 years at the helm, capped his head coaching career by leading the Cadets to a fourth-place Class 2A state showing last fall.
Aurora Christian's Steve Hanson, who directed the Eagles to a Class 2A supersectional appearance in 2011, stepped down as head boys basketball coach to take an administrative post at the school.
Veteran Marmion assistant head football coach Kurt Becker, a 1977 East Aurora graduate who went on to play with the Chicago Bears' Super Bowl winning team, was named as the Tomcats' head football coach in April.
One would be hard-pressed to find a more athletic pair of siblings than the Fisher brothers. St. Charles East senior Charlie Fisher served as the Saints' starting quarterback and basketball guard, while younger brother George Fisher placed second in the state at 126 pounds for Marmion during the Class 2A state wrestling tournament one year after winning the 119-pound state title as a sophomore in 2011.
Athlete most likely to play professionally
Batavia defensive end/tight end Cole Gardner.
Future looks bright
I can't wait to watch the progress of Batavia tailback Anthony Thielk, continued success of Geneva fireballer Andy Honiotes, and seniors Kendall Stephens of St. Charles East and St. Charles North's Quinten Payne as they renew their friendly rivalry for their respective basketball teams in 2012-13.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy your summer.
You can reach Craig Brueske at firstname.lastname@example.org.