By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
As another football season approaches, a dark cloud hangs over the NIC-10. That cloud is in the form of Boylan’s record conference winning streak.
The streak is long enough now to stretch over seven-and-a-half seasons and is long enough to stop counting individual games. The number can be figured out after it ends. And it will unlikely be broken.
But the point here is not to gush over a long winning streak by the Titans. That is done plenty and will continue as they roll off the victories. What is more interesting to look at is to figure out how to have a chance to end the streak.
There are several keys to figuring out how to beat the Titans. You have to look all over, from a few close games in the conference, of which there are not many, or to some tightly-contested playoff games for the Titans.
The first key is to limit the big plays made by the Titans. Not just on offense, where they are lethal, but also in special teams and by the defensive backfield.
This is easier said than done. More so than any other team in the conference, Boylan concentrates on getting their best players on defense, special teams and offense, in that order.
Part of the reason Boylan has that luxury is they are deep and talented. But other teams are similarly deep and talented in the area.
Getting the top guys on defense first allows the Titans to be able to make the game-breaking plays that can so often be the difference in high school. If a defender gets his hands on the ball, he will have a great shot of getting points out of it.
So too it works for the special teams. Boylan always fields a great kicker, but they have so many players who can return the ball that the only safe kick against them is a kick out of bounds, as was evident on the game-tying punt return in the playoffs last season.
The next thing to do against the Titans is to stop the run game. Boylan has had several talented quarterbacks who can sling the ball over the last few years. But if they can’t run, you can take your chances against the pass.
The third key to beating Boylan is to diversify your offense.
We have seen Machesney Park Harlem teams the last few years with dominant passing attacks that can’t move the ball consistently against Boylan. We have also seen dominant running teams at Rockton Hononegah that have the same problem.
Against a defense as good as what the Titans usually field, you have to be able to attack from all over the field if you want to succeed.
Against Lake Zurich in the playoffs, Boylan gave up some back-breaking runs, which is uncharacteristic for their defense. But this was after a few key passing plays allowed the defense to get off balance.
The final key is to limit the turnovers. Boylan does not turn the ball over, so if you go into a game against them and do that, you can pretty much kiss your chances goodbye.
We’ve seen teams put these together in stretches against Boylan in the past. Belvidere North was right there until a late turnover did them in. Harlem had a 20-0 lead before turnovers changed the tide in that game. Rockford East even hung with Boylan for a quarter last year before an interception opened the floodgates.
All of these keys come down to discipline. It is the hardest thing to get out of a 16- to 18-year-old boy. But the Titans continue to have an abundance of it. And until a team matches that discipline, the long streak is likely to continue.
From the July 31-Aug. 6, 2013, issue