I’m pretty certain you, like I, heard the buzz this summer surrounding Reavis football.
After going 5-4 but failing to compile enough playoff points to qualify for the postseason in 2013, the Rams were a team to keep a close eye on this season.
Much of the optimism surrounded a group of returning skill position players who earned their stripes as sophomores on the varsity in ’13.
The thinking was that with a year of seasoning under their belts, those kids would be ready to take the next step and lead Reavis to a more successful ’14 season.
If Friday’s lopsided 36-18 victory over St. Laurence in the second annual Battle of Burbank is any indication, Reavis appears primed to register its fourth playoff appearance since 1989 and first since 2007.
Hey, I’m fully aware one game does not make a season and much can happen over the next eight weeks — injuries, academics, girlfriend issues.
However, that wasn’t just a normal win by the Rams. It was a statement.
“I think that it left a sour taste in our mouths to be playoff eligible last year and not have enough points to qualify,” admitted Reavis coach Tim Zasada. “We told the kids that one thing you can do this year is win six or more games and not have to worry about playoff points.”
I’m confident, despite a competitive South Suburban Red schedule, the Rams will avoid the anxiety of relying on playoff points to reach the postseason. Translation: this is a six-win team, at the very least.
Friday’s Battle of Burbank win is a huge step in the right direction.
Last season, St. Laurence took advantage of some costly mistakes and routed the Rams 44-16 in Week 1.
But Zasada made some adjustments, the first of which began back in January.
“When we came back to school after [Christmas] break, we asked the kids to get in the weight room and get stronger,” Zasada said. “From 6 to 7:30 [a.m.] Monday through Thursday. They came to work four days a week before going to their first class. We didn’t have too many people who missed. We’re stronger this year. I really believe Friday’s victory was earned in the weight room.”
Reavis quarterback Isiah Alpuche rushed for three touchdowns and passed for another against St. Laurence.
He’s part of a half-dozen or so players, mostly juniors, who are expected to play both sides of the ball; that’s why offseason conditioning was a top priority.
Alpuche echoed his coach’s sentiments in regards to the benefits of offseason conditioning.
“We were prepared for St. Laurence this year,” Alpuche said.
“Dedicating ourselves to the weight room was a huge factor in winning Friday. Our guys got stronger. We’re ready to go.”
As much as the Rams should be commended for their dedication and preparation during the offseason, it’s worth noting this is a skilled team.
You can be the most physically gifted specimen on earth, but you must have “game.”
Multiple players on the Rams roster have “game.”
Alpuche stole the spotlight against St. Laurence, but running backs Travis Liszewski, Calvin Jordan and Khalid Norvell came up big as well.
Two sophomore receivers, Marc McClinton and Brantrell Seymore, proved they belong on varsity.
“Coming back this year and doing what we did felt good,” Alpuche said. “It was an amazing feeling. But it’s just one game.”
Zasada was forced to remind his players that eight weeks remain in the regular season. When the Rams arrived to practice Monday sporting wide grins, Zasada provided a little reality check.
“We told them we looked at the film and they made 79 mistakes on Friday,” he said. “That got rid of those smiles in a hurry. It was a great win but we have to get back to work.”