By Matt Nestor
During the dog days of summer, when teams were starting to practice, Boylan Head Coach Dan Appino wasn’t sure what he had on defense.
Only three starters returned, and he had to replace all of his starting linebackers from the previous season. Outside of all-conference player Chris Miller, there was no way to know what to expect.
But from the shadows of uncertainty, a deep, balanced unit emerged. Sam James, Dean Lowry and Grant Flodin were stars during the season Conor Slipkevych, DJ Zimmerman and Tony Pirello all made big plays in the playoffs.
And the combination of them all led to the Titans becoming one of the top, if not the top, defense in the state this season.
“Every week, we’re prepared well by coach (Josh) Fagan,” Lowry said. “We never get down on each other, and we always stick together and do our job.”
The Titans only gave up 9 points per game in the regular season. During the playoffs, when the competition gets better each week, Boylan only gave up 10 points per game leading up to the championship.
In the title game, against a Marmion team that averaged 32 points during the season and 28 points during the playoffs, Boylan held the Cadets to their third-lowest point total of the season, only allowing 19 points.
“We moved the ball on them a little bit, but we never got into any rhythm,” Marmion Head Coach Dan Thorpe said.
The reason for the Cadets being off was turnovers. The Titans forced six Marmion turnovers during the title game.
Turnovers had been a key for Boylan during their entire playoff run.
In their closest game against Cary Grove, Boylan did not cause a turnover. But they forced six against Addison Trail and four in a semifinal victory against Prairie Ridge.
Against Prairie Ridge, Flodin recovered three of the fumbles. He recovered six in all during the playoffs, including one in the championship to go with a blocked extra point, to lead the way for Boylan.
“It’s nuts to think about,” he said. “The ball loves me. I got magnets on my hands.”
Next year, there will be a lot more certainty for the Boylan defense entering the season having played a lot of juniors this year. But they will have a long way to go before they can make the impact this year’s defense did.
From the Dec. 1-7, 2010 issue