WOODSTOCK – Marian Central football coach Ed Brucker figured his offense would be in good hands this season with junior quarterback Billy Bahl.
Brucker watched Bahl working with offensive coordinator Dirk Stanger, almost daily, during the winter and spring. He saw Bahl tagging along with his predecessor, Chris Streveler, to the weightroom.
Then, in June, Bahl led the Hurricanes to the championship game in a 7-on-7 tournament at Notre Dame. Marian lost that game, but the ’Canes had not made the championship game in seven previous trips.
“We lost by three points, but we got to play in [Notre Dame] stadium,” Brucker said. “I think that did a lot for his confidence.”
Bahl (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) did not disappoint once the regular season arrived. The Northwest Herald area passing leader has helped the Hurricanes (5-1) to a No. 9 ranking in The Associated Press Class 5A poll heading into Friday’s 7:30 p.m. game with top-ranked Montini (6-0) in Lombard.
“I think I’ve played pretty well,” Bahl said. “There’s still a lot of stuff I want to clean up and get better at and stop making little mistakes. I’ve thrown a lot of interceptions [seven], I want to get that down. But for the most part I’m pretty pleased with my play. I’m still just trying to get better every week.”
Bahl has completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,604 yards with 17 touchdowns. He played one of his best games last week in a 34-28 victory over St. Francis, completing 15 of 24 for 277 yards and three touchdowns.
“That was big for him,” Brucker said. “We had a competitive game and he really played well. He’s come along real fine. He’s accurate. He throws an accurate deep ball and we’ve had a lot of long ones. He understands the offense a lot better now.”
Brucker said Bahl showed flashes with the sophomore team last season, but also did some things the coaches did not like in big games. He stuck with Streveler, the Northwest Herald two-time Player of the Year, through the playoffs and the winter, before Streveler left for the University of Minnesota.
“I came in freshman year and he was fully devoted to trying to make me the new quarterback when he left,” Bahl said. “Last year, we got real close in the middle of the season and then, after the season, it was almost like we were brothers. He took me with him everywhere. We worked out until he left and we work out when he comes back too.”
Brucker sees Streveler’s influence on Bahl every day.
“That was beneficial. He taught him how to work it in the weightroom a little bit,” Brucker said. “Chris is such a positive guy. Billy’s not always that way naturally, he doesn’t have the confidence he’d like to have.”
But he’s getting there. Wide receiver Brett Olson has 31 receptions and an area-best totals in yards (711) and touchdowns (nine) has enjoyed the process working with Bahl.
“He’s come a long way,” Olson said. “A lot of it’s confidence and making sure he knows where we’re going to be and we know where we have to be. It’s just practicing a lot and all the throwing we’ve done has really paid off.”
Bahl is playing a glamorous position for a school that cranks out NCAA Division I quarterbacks. He could be the next after Jon Budmayr (Wisconsin), Ben Krol (Eastern Illinois) and Streveler. Right now, he is focused on trying to stretch Marian’s regular-season winning streak over Montini to three.
“We’re trying to play it like any other game and not get too hyped on it,” Bahl said. “We know it’s a big game, we know it’s going to make the regular season [if we win]. We’re going to try and play hard and execute and do what we have to do.”