|Brandin Austin has caught 39 passes for 482 yards
Benedictine athletics photo
Benedictine coach Jon Cooper said he realizes there’s five more games to play this season, so he and his team has no intention of getting ahead of themselves. But after two big victories in the Northern Athletics Conference, the Eagles of the suburban Chicago town of Lisle have a shot at making a run at the NATHC title.
Benedictine is 2-0 in the conference, but those two victories have come against preseason conference favorite Concordia (Ill.), 47-41, and a tough Aurora team, 28-21, in consecutive weeks.
If Benedictine can beat the last remaining undefeated conference team this Saturday, Concordia (Wis.) at home, the Eagles will be in the driver’s seat for the title and for its first back-to-back winning seasons in some time.
“I don’t think we’ll get ahead of ourselves,” Cooper said. “We’re taking this a day at a time. We had some big wins in the last five years but we haven’t won a conference title. We’ve been in the hunt a couple of times so we know how it feels.”
One could say this season was a year in the making for Benedictine. The Eagles upset Concordia (Ill.) 15-14 in the final game of 2009. The victory allowed Benedictine to have a winning record and prevented Concordia from winning the NATHC title and going to the Division III playoffs.
“Last year, it was one of those seasons were we had big senior class but a lot of players hurt,” Cooper said. “That last game was like a crowning achievement for those seniors. We won the big game and even though it didn’t give us the conference championship, it allowed us to affect it and let someone else go. This is a different team but that win had its effect on us.”
But Benedictine started the season 1-2 going into conference play against some of the league’s better team.
Cooper said, though, the nonconference games became a proving ground to see what players will step up in time for league play. He said one of those players was senior quarterback Preston Earl. Earl transferred from Illinois State and eventually won the quarterback spot full time during the early games.
Earl is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes in five games (80-116-4) for 1,026 yards to average 205.2 passing yards a contest. Two of the Benedictine’s favorite targets are also having great seasons. Brandin Austin has caught 39 passes for 482 yards (96.4 yards per game) while Mike Trombetta has caught 23 passes for 539 yards (107.8).
On top of Benedictine’s passing game, sophomore running back John Borsellino is having a breakout season. Borsellino is averaging 90.6 yards a game (112-482) and has scored nine touchdowns. He has also caught 20 passes out of the back field for another 176 yards this season.
“Our offense is the strength of our teams this year,” Cooper said. “In past years it has been our defense. We’ve got a lot of new kids on both sides of the ball and it’s taken some time to find ourselves. Our quarterback has started full time the past three games and has played really well. Our top two wide receivers are having outstanding seasons so far.”
But Benedictine still has to get by Concordia (Wis.), which has always been traditionally strong in conference play. Benedictine has lost three straight to the Falcons going into Saturday’s contest.
“This team has given us all kind of problems,” Cooper said. “They are a pressure team and they really come after you. There’s no fear on their end. They’re going to blitz us and we’re going to have to stand up against their pressure. This will be a great challenge for us.”
Cooper said, though, regardless of its only losses, this is the time of year that they want to play well and is where champions are made.
“I’ve seen a lot of teams that start off strong and for a lot of reasons don’t finish that way and there are a lot of teams that start off weak and lose by big scores and by the end of the season if those games were played over there would be a different outcome,” Cooper said. “This is the time we want to play our best.”
Benedictine will have its shot starting Saturday.