Bright future, but no more reign at Bolingbrook
November 4, 2012 5:36PM
Bolingbrook's Chandler Piekarski trys to avoid Neuqua Valley's Nolan Dean. | John Patsch~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 6, 2012 6:11AM
It was apparent to senior wide receiver Chandler Piekarski fairly early after the postseason last year that it would be way more difficult for Bolingbrook to repeat as Class 8A state champions.
“We came in the first week of lifting in the offseason and we knew this task was going to be hard,’’ Piekarski said. “Montini was one of the few schools who did it and they are in 5A. We all knew it was a tough task.’’
He was right.
The Raiders couldn’t find that 2011 magic in the 2012 postseason and ended their run Friday with a 44-33 loss to unbeaten Neuqua Valley in Bolingbrook.
Where does the program go from here? Key players Piekarski, quarterback Aaron Bailey, linebacker Emile Wisdom, receiver Brandon Lewis and running back Omar Stover — to name a few starters — are all seniors and coach John Ivlow will need to look at his young guys, many of whom saw quality playing time this season.
Sophomore quarterback Quincy Woods and junior running back Jaden Huff are probably going to be the two big guns on offense.
Defensively, Huff’s younger brother, Julian, should be a solid linebacker. And in the secondary, junior Parker Westphal will only get that much better at defensive back.
But the future doesn’t take away the sting of watching Neuqua running back Joey Rhattigan do a blitzkrieg on the Raiders defense for an astonishing 344 yards.
Again, it was way harder to repeat than many thought.
“What happened last year was an unforgettable moment and the chance to relive it wasn’t there this year,’’ Piekarski said. “You always want to shoot for the repeat, but every week teams got tougher and tougher.’’
Looking back, Wisdom said experience on the defensive side was the biggest difference in this year’s team compared to the state champions.
“People who knew what they were actually doing (was the difference) and we had a lot of young guys,’’ Wisdom said. “The drop-off of guys who were there for three years like Antonio Morrison (in 2011), we had only two people now who started from that state championship team. It was a drop-off (of talent).
“I give credit to the young linebackers who stepped in and tried to make plays, but it’s a learning experience.’’
And then there’s Bailey, the Illinois-bound quarterback who missed five games with a sprained knee, only to come back for the Raiders’ second-round postseason loss.
It didn’t seem fair for the good-natured Bailey to end his Bolingbrook career this way, espeically when most players (and fans) had their confidence level lifted once they heard Bailey would start.
“We thought we were going to be on a roll,’’ Wisdom said.
Bailey didn’t disappoint. He rushed for 225 yards on 28 carries and scored three rushing touchdowns while passing for 76 yards and a score.
Now Bailey has his mind set on Champaign and an Illinois program in shambles under first-year coach Tim Beckman.
Beckman’s shell-shocked group got shelled at Ohio State on Saturday 52-22, falling to 2-7 overall and a pathetic 0-5 in the Big Ten.
Despite calls from Illini faithful to fire the in-over-his-head Beckman after just one season, Bailey isn’t deterred and isn’t paying attention to the Beckman haters on Illinois message boards. He’s still set to make the drive to Champaign after graduation.
“It’s all good and I’m not worried about anything because I’m still committed,’’ Bailey said. “I can’t wait to go down there. I don’t read all that stuff, and if you do, it gets your mind all discombobulated. I don’t worry about anything.’’
Whether or not Beckman decides to burn Bailey’s redshirt season next year remains to be seen. Illinois quarterbacks, starter Nathan Scheelhaase and backup Reilly O’Toole, certainly aren’t setting the world on fire. Bailey would be a welcome addition to add some life to a stagnant offense.
Bailey already sees some nuances in the Illinois offense that he likes.
“The spread offense, when they go into their shotgun, I feel really comfortable with that and it’s a lot of small things that is hard for me to explain,’’ Bailey said. “I don’t know what the future holds. I’m not worried. I’m going to go down there and let it be done.’’
Piekarski, for one, is just grateful for the experience of playing with a future Division I quarterback.
“Catching passes from Aaron is something that I’m going to be holding onto for a long time,’’ Piekarski said. “He’s going to go places and I can tell my kids that I played with that guy. It will be interesting to see where (Bailey’s career) goes.’’