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Disabato: New football coaches begin careers on winning note

Matt Page Brother Rice. | File photo

Matt Page, of Brother Rice. | File photo

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Updated: January 25, 2013 10:16PM



That was easy.

One game was all that was needed for Brother Rice’s Brian Badke and Stagg’s Mark Kleinpeter to register their first career victories as head coaches.

Badke guided the Crusaders to a 48-14 thumping of Shepard. I’ll admit, I expected the Astros to put up more of a fight.

The Crusaders led 28-7 at the half and pretty much coasted.

“We expected to put up some points,” Badke said. “Defensively, we didn’t want to give up any big plays and we put good pressure on their quarterback.”

Rice is running a spread offense similar to St. Xavier, where Badke coached the previous 13 seasons.

Smart move.

I’m sure having a 6-foot-5, strong-armed quarterback such as Matt Page at your disposal made the decision to go to a spread attack easier.

Page completed 22-of-40 passes for 275 yards and five touchdowns.

Nice day at the office, young man.

Rice fans had to be rubbing their eyes in disbelief while watching their team fling the ball around the field.

Welcome to the 21st century.

“I’m proud of how the guys responded,” Badke said. “The kids were focused and ready to play. They prepared for this. They worked their butts off since May. They deserved it.”

There was a time when Stagg won consistently. From 2002 to ’05, the Chargers were 28-15 and had a trip to the Class 7A semifinals.

Oh, where are you now Joe Ganz?

The Chargers haven’t posted a winning season in six years. In fact, Friday’s win allowed Stagg to match its win total the past two seasons, when it was a combined 1-17.

Granted, Hillcrest has lost 20 consecutive games. But the Chargers, running an option attack, thoroughly dominated, leading 37-0 at intermission.

Quite impressive.

Tim Zasada, who won plenty of games as head coach of T.F. North (34-25 in six years), earned a 56-24 win Aug. 24 over Solorio on his first try at Reavis. The Rams, like Stagg, were 1-17 the past two seasons. That didn’t temper the enthusiasm of students, who filled a pair of fan buses for the Solorio game.

“Everyone had a great time,” Zasada said. “The kids had a blast. It was a lot of fun.”

To some observers’ eyes, maybe a little too fun.

“I’m used to winning. But they (his players) never won,” Zasada said. “They were doing end zone dances. The common phrase is act like you’ve done it before. But they’ve never done it before. I’ve had a talk with them.”

Reavis was a perennial powerhouse in the 1970s and 1980s, advancing to three straight Class 6A state championships before finally winning it all in 1982. After an extended number of down seasons, the community is hungry for a winner.

“Walking down the halls today, people I don’t even know were congratulating me,” Zasada said. “The community definitely needs winning football. You get a few wins under your belt, the confidence starts to roll and you never know what can happen.”

I covered the Week 1 battle between Sandburg and Andrew, won by the Eagles 30-23. That makes eight wins in nine tries for the Eagles against the Thunderbolts. The atmosphere was electric. Both bleachers, which seat 4,000 comfortably, were packed to the gills. Additional fans from both sides were standing around the stadium. It was an intense, fun experience.

Looking around, I couldn’t help but shake my head in disbelief, like I do every year covering this game, marveling at how the powers-that-were denied these District 230 programs this game for 27 years. It was an absolute injustice caused by egos — from principals down to head coaches — run amuck. That alumni, players, parents and fans were denied this experience up until 2004 is an atrocity.

I ran into a 1998 Andrew alum at the game and we talked about the atmosphere, among other things.

“We would have destroyed them (Sandburg) in 1997,” he said, smiling but serious.

Sadly, we’ll never know.



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