Evan and Robbie Battani
On Friday, October 20, the Almont Raider football team will face off against the Ogemaw Heights Falcons in the annual Orange Rush/Evan Battani Memorial Game, a tradition that dates back to 2020. The special game is played in honor of Evan Battani, an Almont eighth grader and football player, who passed away in 2018.
Almont Varsity Football Coach James Leusby said the annual Orange Rush game has become one of his players’ most anticipated and meaningful games of the entire season.
“The players wear all-orange uniforms donated to the program by the Battani Family. The players take great pride in wearing these Orange-Rush jerseys and playing that night’s game in honor of Evan,” Leusby said.
Rick Battani, Evan’s dad, said the special jerseys also feature a patch created in Evan’s memory.
“All of the orange jerseys are only worn on this one game and bear the Evan logo on the front chest—giving new meaning to ‘play for the front of the jersey.’ When you look at the logo it is designed to point back to the center, which is the cross. Evan was very proud of his faith in Jesus and we know he is now well taken care of in Heaven,” Rick said.
The game will feature special announcements before kickoff and during halftime. Before the team enters and exits the field, they’ll pause for a moment of silence near Evan’s memorial rock—something they do for every home game.
Evan was a gifted athlete who dreamed of eventually playing football at Notre Dame, Rick said. He also excelled in track, setting multiple records in pole vaulting and 4×100 relays. Evan passed away in his sleep the night following his eighth-grade celebration.
His youth football coach, Matt Rinke, said Evan was a level-headed athlete who “ran hard and blocked harder” and had relentless defensive skills. Jeff Bacholzky, Almont Middle School’s head track coach and JV football coach remembers Evan as someone with a passion for competition who also possessed natural leadership qualities.
“As a father of two boys, I was impressed with his love for his family and friends, as well as his faith in God,” Bacholzky continued.
“I was able to coach Evan’s close friends and former teammates and those young men honored Evan by playing with passion and striving to love one another the way that Evan loved each of them. Evan’s legacy will continue to live on through his family and friends.”
In addition to his pursuits on the football field, Evan was known by his classmates for making everyone feel welcomed and happy and handing out candy, Rick said.
Tragically, three years after Evan’s passing, his older brother, Robbie died as the result of a traffic accident. Robbie was a 2019 Almont High School graduate who was also an accomplished athlete in wrestling, pole vaulting and hurdling. He was attending Grand Valley State University.
“Robbie was known for his wit and humor and made a point to brighten other students’ days,” Rick said of his late son.
The Evan and Robbie Battani Memorial Scholarship Fund was established with Four County Community Foundation. Almont High School seniors who participate in track, football or wrestling and “demonstrate love and compassion for his/her fellow students and community” will be eligible for the award.
While the Battani’s seek to fully fund their scholarship fund, Rick and his wife, Rene, have been granting awards to Almont graduates through the “For Evan’s Sake’ initiative. Four $500 awards have been given to seniors to be used to visit family, spend time with friends and build memories with loved ones, Rick said.
To donate to the Evan and Robbie Battani Memorial Scholarship Fund, visit https://www.4ccf.org/donate-online/ or send a check to Four County Community Foundation, PO Box 539, Almont MI 48003.