By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
As the NIC-10 football season kicked off Friday night, Aug. 24, there were a lot of unknowns.
The two-time defending state champion Rockford Boylan Catholic Titans were replacing their coach, as well as a load of starters, including some of the best players to have ever played at the football-rich school.
Some viewed this as an opportunity for the conference to catch up and knock the Titans off their pedestal. The Titans looked at this as a chance to let people know they were still in charge.
Boylan scored on six of their first seven possessions of the game and used a quick 19-0 start to help cruise to a 35-13 victory over the Rockton Hononegah Indians.
“We were trying to start off on a good foot,” Boylan linebacker Ryan Johnson said. “Coach really emphasized playing very physical. That was the goal, and that is what was accomplished.”
In new coach John Cacciatore’s first game leading Boylan, senior running back DeMarcus Vines placed an early stake to his claim as the best player in the conference.
After playing a secondary role behind Tyreis Thomas last season, Vines touched the ball 19 times for 138 yards of offense and three touchdowns, including a 49-yard touchdown reception and two rushing touchdowns.
“DeMarcus does a very good job of making me look like a good play caller,” Cacciatore said. “There are times he has another gear. There are times he uses a gear that I don’t even know that he knows he has.”
For Vines, the usage is a change of pace. After getting around 40 touches last season, the senior carried 16 times and caught three passes. He said the increased touches gave him a new appreciation for his former teammate Thomas.
“Going from only 40 carries last year to almost 20 tonight, it’s fatiguing,” he said. “As much as they push us in practice, I’ll get used to it week by week.”
Vines is part of an extremely fast team for the Titans. Gone is some of the size of the last two Boylan teams, but in its place is another level of speed that the previously speedy Titans teams would be envious of.
“We like to be able to put the speed in the right places,” Cacciatore said. “This is a team that has a lot of good skills and good linemen on both sides of the ball. They’re very physical and say a lot about our team speed.”
In front of all that speed is Vines. He said he likes to use that speed to his advantage as much as possible.
“I honestly just try to run away from everyone,” he said. “Most people like contact; I’m not the contact guy. I like to get away. I try to run as fast as I can when I get to the edge and hope they don’t get a hand on me. I can take the contact, but I prefer not to. I’m just a little guy.”
For Hononegah, the defensive speed of the Titans frustrated the Indians all night. Hononegah only managed 148 yards of offense on the night, and a team that has been touted as having great speed looked slow thanks to the quick Titans’ defense.
“I think our defense is very comparable to last year’s defense,” Johnson said. “Last year, we were quick, strong and physical, and this year it’s the same thing. We have big shoes to fill, but I think we can do it.”
Alex Martin, a junior transfer from Missouri, was the lone bright spot for Hononegah. He led the team in rushing with 47 yards and a touchdown, and also had a 74-yard touchdown run called back because of holding.
The Titans will face their second straight stiff test when they travel to Machesney Park Harlem Friday. Hononegah will look to bounce back as they take on Belvidere North.
In other NIC-10 action:
• While Boylan continued their conference-record winning streak, the man who coached the first 56 victories in that streak started another one.
Led by Devone Manns’ 132 yards rushing and Mark Trautmann’s two rushing touchdowns, new Rockford Auburn coach Dan Appino helped guide the Knights to a 16-14 victory over Belvidere North to end a 36-game losing streak.
• Freeport got 182 rushing yards, three touchdowns, as well as a 33-yard touchdown pass, from running back Steve McShane as the Pretzels ruined the turf debut at Swanson Stadium, defeating the Rockford Guilford Vikings 29-13.
• For the second straight season, the Rockford East E-Rabs put a scare into the Harlem Huskies late into the third quarter. But the Huskies also pulled away late for the second straight year, topping the E-Rabs 41-17 behind Kevin Witcik’s 149 yards rushing. East quarterback Jacob Benson debuted as a starter with 297 passing yards.
• Troy Vandenbroek threw for 154 yards, while Maurice Jackson ran for 144 as Belvidere pulled away late in a 40-26 victory over the Rockford Jefferson J-Hawks.
From the Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2012, issue