The Bishop Heelan football team is undefeated and have won their first eight games by an average of 32 points. But it's the defense that sets the tone for the second-ranked Crusaders.
Some of the biggest collisions Heelan sees all season happen in practice. That's when seniors Bryce Sweeney, 6'6", 300 pounds and 6'4",230-pound Zach Skibinski go head to head. The pair of division one prospects are part of a defense that is giving up only 9 points per game with three shutouts.
"If our defense plays well we're going to be alright," said Bishop Heelan head coach Roger Jansen. "Our defense has kept us in a lot of football games. They know that and that's where we hang our hat."
Skibinski's been playing on both sides of the football since his sophomore year. He's a high-energy, high-impact player that offenses have to account for on every play.
"He's the guy that teams are kind of working their schemes around," said Jansen. "There's a lot of other guys that figure into the equation but he's the main point of emphasis."
"Sometimes you're thinking about offense, you should have gotten this. You're thinking about the stuff you messed up on defense," said Skibinski. "You just need to keep a short memory about that stuff and just keep going."
Sweeney was strictly an offensive tackle until this season. He was told in the summer that the Crusaders would need him to do double duty on the d-line.
"I said whatever for the team, I'll do," said Sweeney. "I worked really hard and he helped me out a lot because I hadn't really played at all. He helped me prepare to play defense this year."
"We thought about using him some last year but I think it was a conditioning factor," added Jansen. "Bryce has worked extremely hard to get himself into shape to do it."
"They have a good rotation of taking us out every series or every couple of series to get us rested to be prepared in the fourth quarter," said Sweeney. "And they condition us a lot here."
Most of Heelan's games have basically been over at halftime. But two weeks ago the Crusaders did have to come from behind to beat Carroll, 17-14. It's the kind of win that will prepare them for the playoffs.
"We showed what we could do in a close game," said Skibinski. "We fought, we persevered, we came out with a win. I think it's nice to have those but if we just keep blowing people out, there's not much to complain about."
Both players say they'll wait until the end of the season before making a decision on where to play in college.
Bishop Heelan will wrap up the regular season with a home game against Spencer on Friday. The Crusaders will host a first round playoff game on Wednesday, October 24th.
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