Two evenly matched teams battle it out Oct.1 for division 1 supremacy
To the casual high school football fan, "late September" and "playoff implications" seldom go hand-in-hand.
While most teams are beginning to settle in to their mid-season routines, Notre Dame Pride and Bishop O'Byrne Bobcats are looking ahead to Sept. 30 as their most important matchup of the year.
Over the course of two seasons these two teams have developed quite a strong rivalry. Friday will mark the highly anticipated rematch of last year's Division 1 City Championships.
Although Notre Dame has come out on top in each of their previous matchups, Pride head coach Dave Diluzio refuses to let his back-to-back City Champions rest upon their past laurels.
"It's not something we think about too much," he said. "We just try to go out every week and be the best team we can be every week. The schedule is very balanced this year and competition is very close."
The Pride have seemingly carried their momentum from years past into the 2011 season. They currently boast an impressive 2-0 record thanks to a 22-17 victory over the always-dangerous St. Francis Browns in Week 1, and a decisive 49-21 rout of the St. Mary's Saints in Week 2.
This week they face off against a team they have not lost to since to since 2006, yet Diluzio believes it will be their toughest competition to date.
"I've been competing against O'Byrne since 2005 and this might be the best team they've had," Diluzio said.
"They are a very tough and athletic team with great speed. They're going to be physical and they're going to hit you. They have a great running game and a diverse blitz scheme."
Since entering Division 1 in 2008, Bishop O'Byrne has consistently improved and this year looks to be no exception.
Longtime head coach Derek MacCready said he believes his strong coaching staff is responsible for the increasingly talented rosters at Bishop O'Byrne.
"The coaching staff has created a situation where players know that they will be competitive year in, year out," he explained. "Therefore if they come here they know they will be a part of a serious program."
MacCready, who spent 11 seasons in the Canadian Football League as a defensive lineman, has successfully instilled a defensive mindset into his players.
The Bobcats head into Friday's game with a 1-0 record, having defeated Henry Wise Wood high school in their first competition of the season, looking proficient in every aspect of their game. The offense poured on 34 points while the defense held Wise Wood, the highest scoring offense in Division 1, to a mere three points.
O'Byrne's defense is headed by Under-18 Canada Cup All-Star Brayden (Tweeter) Twarynski who, like his head coach, takes up residence on the defensive line. Twarynski is among several players who were a part of the 2008 Championship winning junior team at O'Byrne.
"We've had a taste of what the championship is like," Twarynski said. "We know the steps we have to take to get there. It's not something that just comes naturally. It's something you have to work really hard to achieve."
A victory over Notre Dame is something that means a great deal to both MacCready and Twarynski. For Twarynski, this will be his last chance to dethrone the prestigious Pride.
"The last two seasons we've had a big rivalry [with Notre Dame] and it's a hurdle we need to get over," said Twarynski. "Right now they are the last stepping stone we need to get to to reach our goal."
- By Daniel Ball