Would his time come?
Batavia’s Drake Ostrander wasn’t sure, but with hard work — and a little help from his friends — the senior safety was ready when it did.
Meet “The Interceptor,” as defensive coordinator Matt Holm likes to call him.
A backup last season, Ostrander has become a fixture in a Bulldogs secondary that has had some shuffling of personnel this season.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Ostrander leads the team with five interceptions and ranks fifth with 38 tackles, 32 of them solo. He also has seven passes defended.
“He could have a couple more,” Holm said of the interceptions. “The kid worked his tail off in the offseason. We’re very blessed to have kids with that dedication.
“You see them work out multiple times a week and you kind of have a feeling about who might develop into something more. It’s not always going to happen, but a lot of times it translates.”
Ostrander credits work — physical and mental — he did this past summer with Tony Roberts and Vincie Solano, 2022 graduates who were ahead of him last fall and are playing in college this fall at Indiana State and Indiana Wesleyan, respectively.
“We did a lot of drills, and that was amazing,” Ostrander said. “But they also worked with me on a lot of mental aspects, helping with positioning and what I should be thinking about and things to look for.
“In some of our 7-on-7s, any time I’d mess up or not, they were there to help out.”
Ostrander played cornerback and safety early this year, and his development has been a boost.
Ryan Whitwell was a returning safety, but the coaching staff was hesitant to use him on defense because he had developed into the offense’s lead running back.
“Drake is more of a cover safety than we’ve had in the past,” Holm said. “Generally, our safeties have been guys who come down and fill in the box and are more like linebackers.
“Drake’s a little different because he has those cover skills.”
Early success — Ostrander picked off a pass in four of his team’s first five games — certainly helped. He returned one 31 yards for a touchdown against Wheaton North.
“I completely agree,” Ostrander said. “I feel coverage is my strength. My confidence is up, and my biggest jumps have come in trust in myself.
“Getting those picks was huge. I could trust my own alignment and see that it works out.”
Batavia (7-3) rolled last week in the first round of the Class7A playoffs, winning 42-0 at Rockford Guilford, which was ending a long playoff drought.
The Bulldogs return home for a 1 p.m. Saturday date against Hersey (10-0), the Mid-Suburban League East champions and another unfamiliar team.
“They’re pretty dynamic and explosive on offense,” Batavia coach Dennis Piron said of Hersey. “They can score anytime. They run well and can go vertical.”
Studying the matchup intrigues Ostrander.
“I love that part of the playoffs,” he said. “It’s just a whole new experience. You’re testing it out, seeing who can learn the most in the quickest time, your team against them.”
Holm, who likes what Ostrander brings to the process, loves that about him.
“He’s real good at reading things, makes quick decisions and sees things well,” Holm said. “Being in the right place and seeing things is a good skill.
“It’s my favorite thing, just playing teams and going places you don’t always see. We didn’t know anything about Guilford and Hersey. We don’t know too much.”