Disabato: St. Laurence, Reavis all set for inaugural football ‘Battle of Burbank’
By Pat Disabato email@example.com Twitter: @disabato August 28, 2013 9:36PM
St. Laurence football coach Harold Blackmon. | File photo
St. Laurence at Reavis,
7 p.m. Friday; Reavis High School, 6034 W. 77th St., Burbank
Updated: September 30, 2013 7:47AM
Some things — such as the Cubs not winning a World Series in 105 years and Miley Cyrus’ performance at Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards — defy logic.
And, of course, St. Laurence and Reavis never having played a varsity football game against one another.
How can two once-great football programs, separated by just a few blocks and who share the same zip code, never schedule one another?
Imagine Mount Greenwood neighbors Brother Rice and Marist never having played. Or Chicago Heights residents Bloom and Marian Catholic.
So close are Reavis and St. Laurence that respective students could be forgiven for accidentally entering the other’s front doors.
Throughout the 1970s and early ’80s, Reavis and St. Laurence were powerhouses. Each won a state championship: St. Laurence in 1976, Reavis in 1982. In fact, Reavis advanced to three straight Class 6A state titles, finishing as runner-up in 1980 and ’81 before winning it all in Class 6A in ’82.
Burbank was the capital of high school football in Illinois.
Yet, each school never got around to scheduling the other. Well, at least not officially. I’ve heard rumors of backyard, after-school battles — glorified scrimmages, if you will — back in the day.
But nothing ever official on the varsity level.
The Battle of Burbank finally will come to fruition. To say the community is excited would be akin to asking a Michigan fan if he’s excited to play Ohio State.
A drive across 79th Street tells the story. Business marquees promoting the big game. Pregame tailgating parties planned at local establishments. Alums making plans to support their alma mater. I even verified a rumor of a local watering hole, which shall remain anonymous, providing a point-spread on the game. (By the way, St. Laurence is a seven-point favorite.)
THIS is the excitement that occurs when a community rivalry comes to life.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be the first team to kick off this crosstown rivalry game vs. Reavis,” St. Laurence coach Harold Blackmon said. “You look at the history of both programs, and for this game to never have happened is amazing.”
And selfish. That’s the only way to describe the decision of past administrators and coaches from both schools who deprived the Burbank community, players and alumni from experiencing this event through the years.
Life is short. Memories were squandered. Thankfully, that’s in the past.
It’s amazing what can occur when the right men are hired.
When Reavis named Tim Zasada its coach in 2012, one of his first orders of business was getting St. Laurence on the schedule.
“The (Reavis) administration said they would support any opponent I wanted to play,” Zasada said. “St. Laurence saw the story in your paper of me wanting to schedule them. (St. Laurence athletic director) Jim Grannan called Reavis, and it was a done deal.
“This game needs to be played every year. I just think the experience of a neighborhood rivalry is so important, we have to grab it.”
Zasada knows all about rivalries. As a coach at T.F. North, he participated against T.F. South in one of the fiercest rivalries in the Southland.
Zasada’s father, Tom, was coach at Hammond High School. It’s big rival was Bishop Noll. Zasada had the unique perspective of experiencing that rivalry as the son of a coach and a player at Hammond.
“I was the water boy at Hammond and I’ll never forget when I was in fourth grade, we lost 2-0 and I was crying my eyes out the bus ride home,” he said. “When I was a junior at Hammond, we beat Bishop Noll. As a senior, we lost a heartbreaker to them. Those are the games you remember your whole life.”
St. Laurence vs. Reavis. Zasada gets it. So does Blackmon who, win or lose, has no intentions of allowing the Battle of Burbank to ever stop.
“I absolutely love this,” said Blackmon who, like Zasada, is in his second year as coach. “The kids are extremely excited. It’s a great way to start the season.”