WEST CHICAGO – The most effective offensive weapon in the arsenal of the two high school football teams that met on the artificial turf at Memorial Stadium Friday night was the punt.
Muffed punts led to three of the five touchdowns scored in Batavia’s 27-6 non-conference victory over West Chicago (0-2).
“Even on this surface, the ball takes some weird bounces sometimes,” Batavia head coach Mike Gaspari said. “Football’s a strange thing. When that ball hits the ground, you don’t know where it’s going to go.”
The first score of the game came after the Bulldogs (1-1) recovered a muffed punt at the West Chicago 19-yard-line early in the first quarter. Fullback Braden Hartmann carried the ball in from the 8 for the touchdown.
Hartmann was part of a fairly effective one-two punch with tailback Pete Koczmara in the first half. The two backs combined for 85 yards rushing in the first two quarters, but Koczmara was injured with seconds to go in the half and was unable to return with a right leg sprain.
“Somebody grabbed my collar and my leg twisted,” he said. “Oh well. We won the game, so that’s all that matters.”
Two plays after Koczmara went down, Batavia sophomore quarterback Noel Gaspari hit Mike Clopton from 7 yards out to give the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead at the break.
The Wildcats recovered a muffed punt by the Bulldogs at the Batavia 29 early in the third quarter and quarterback Evan Bernard scored on the option a few plays later from the 6.
The score remained 14-6 into the fourth quarter. The key play of the game came when a Batavia punt hit the leg of a West Chicago player, who was trying to block a Bulldog away from the ball near the goal line. Adam Svoboda recovered the ball for Batavia and Hartmann plunged in from three yards out on the next play.
The Bulldogs added another touchdown on a 36-yard burst by Emund Kabba to stretch the lead to 27-6. After that, it was just a matter of the Batavia defense continuing to shut down the Wildcats. Batavia held the Wildcats to 142 total yards.
“They’re a running team, so the big thing was obviously to stop the run, stop their fullback,” Batavia senior linebacker Mike Greco said. “If we stopped him we knew we had a chance to win the game. We worked hard all week as a team. We really came together tonight and hopefully big things will come from this.”