Before Matt Binkowski played a down for him, Scott Girolmo knew the junior was a special player.

Game film provided the first clue.

As he studied his team to get a better sense of their abilities, Battlefield’s new head coach started immediately thinking of ways to incorporate Binkowski more into the Bobcats’ offense after noticing his athleticism and versatility.

There wasn’t much to go on. Although Binkowski played some fullback as a sophomore, he made his biggest impact as an outside linebacker who earned second-team all-Cedar Run District honors. Still, Girolmo saw enough to expand Binkowski’s role.

The second clue came when Girolmo introduced himself to the players and their parents. After the get-together finished, Girolmo realized Binkowski was the last player in the room.

Skilled. Committed. Competitive. Binkowski possessed all those traits to become a two-way threat.

“He’s so dangerous,” Girolmo said. “No one outworks him. The sky is the absolute limit. All we’re trying to do is help get him off the ground. He’s a riser.”

When he presented his plan to Binkowski, Girolmo received no pushback. As expected, Binkowski needed time to learn the intricacies of Girolmo’s offense. But Binkowski absorbed everything, which was no surprise. His willingness to sacrifice for the good of the team was already in place.

“He did the hardest thing you can ask anyone to do,” Girolmo said. “He put his own personal desires to the side.”

Binkowski showcased his mobility last Friday, scoring all five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving), rushing for 219 yards on 10 carries and recording two sacks in the Bobcats’ 37-36 victory over Osbourn that extended their win streak to three and reinserted them back into the playoff picture.

With a young and inexperienced team facing a challenging non-conference schedule that included matchups against unbeaten Freedom and Westfield, the Bobcats started off the season 1-5.

But since a 35-28 double-overtime victory against John Champe Oct. 18, Battlefield has turned its season around to the point that a win Friday over archrival Patriot could propel it back into the postseason after a one-year layoff.

Binkowski’s play on both sides of the ball is a big reason Battlefield is in this position.

“He’s a model of effort and toughness,” Girolmo said.

Averaging almost 10 yards a carry, Binkowski leads Battlefield in rushing (590 yards) and is the team’s leading scorer (42 points). He also has 16 sacks, including eight over the last three games.

His speed allows Battlefield to use him all over the field. On offense, he’s played slot receiver and quarterback in the Wildcat formation. On defense, he plays linebacker, but switches between staying back and moving closer to the line. Considered the Bobcats’ top cover guy, the 6-foot, 218-pound Binkowski is being recruited as a linebacker and has an offer from Rutgers.

“I hate to use too many clichés, but to whom much is given, much is asked,” Girolmo said. “He’s so versatile as an athlete, so aggressive as a competitor and so intelligent as a player.”

When running the ball, Binkowski said he’s changed his approach.

“I’m a lot more patient,” Binkowski said. “I’m waiting for the hole to open.”

His hair might also explain Battlefield’s run.

For no apparent reason, Binkowski and teammate Ryan Craig decided before the John Champe game to have team managers braid both boys’ long hair into pigtails. Battlefield kept winning so Binkowski and Craig kept their look.

He’s grown his hair out for almost three years, making his blond mane a topic of conversation.

Girolmo primarily calls him “Viking.” But he uses the term “Thorderback,” as well in reference to the Marvel character when Binkowski lines up at the quarterback position in the Wildcat.

Appearances aside, Binkowski sees how much Battlefield has improved, especially along an offensive line that’s allowed him to run as well as he has.

“We’ve gotten so much better,” Binkowski said. “We’re not even close to the team we were to start the season.”

David Fawcett is the sports editor for InsideNoVa.com. Reach him at dfawcett@insidenova.com

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