By Matt Nestor
Over the course of the last 10 years, teams from the NIC-10 had been disregarded and viewed as soft. And after most of the top teams repeatedly exited the playoffs early, it would be hard to argue.
Week after week in the playoffs, analysts outside of Rockford looked at Boylan’s NIC-10 competition, assumed it was inferior and would expect the Titans to win.
Boylan Head Coach Dan Appino praised the conference along the way for preparing his team on their run, and after routing Marmion 48-19 to win their first state title, teams will start to take notice of the Titans and the rest of the conference.
“I think we get a bad rap that the schools in the NIC-10 are really weak,” Appino said. “I’m proud of our conference. I thought they did some good things this year. It’s not the best in the state, but it’s not the worst in the state.”
Junior running back Tyreis Thomas said the team was tired of hearing how bad their competition was. He said the lack of respect from outside observers was a driving force for the team.
“It always feels good to gain respect,” he said. “The Rockford area doesn’t really have too much respect. They think we have a weak conference. I personally think our conference is not too bad. But to gain respect and to prove people wrong, that’s always a good feeling.”
The conference played well overall in the playoffs in addition to Boylan. Hononegah and Harlem both won first-round games, and Harlem gave 7A semifinalist St. Rita a very tough game that the Huskies could have won, if not for turnovers.
The Titans make winning a state championship their top goal every year. But with a lot of turnover from the previous season, Boylan wasn’t sure how good they were.
But after a 49-7 win over Hononegah, Appino said they felt their preseason goal was a realistic possibility.
“We played against Hononegah, and we really put together three good quarters of offense, defense and special teams,” he said. “When we got a running clock on the other 8-0 team in our conference, I thought, ‘Maybe we got a shot at a run here.’”
With the title and the added respect, the Titans will have to work hard to keep it. With juniors like Thomas, quarterback Lamont Toney, and defensive lineman Dean Lowry coming back, Boylan will not lack expectations.
And Appino said his staff will do everything they can to ensure the Titans don’t relax.
“We start our offseason lifting program a week from Monday,” he said. “We’ll give them a week to rest up a little bit, and we’ll start moving again. It’s what we do, and it’s who we are.”
From the Dec. 1-7, 2010 issue