Statistics suggest this was the leanest Batavia season since 1988, but the feisty, 2-7 Bulldogs still left it questioning an old sports axiom.
Who says numbers never lie?
“I don’t want to say it was a down year,” senior linebacker Mike Greco said, “because it wasn’t. We were young, we faced adversity and next year – obviously I’m not coming back – but I know one thing: they’re going to have a good team. They’re going to work hard and they’ll make sure of that.”
Batavia took the field against Geneva on Friday with the rare knowledge the game would be its last of the fall. The Bulldogs entered the year with six straight playoff berths and eight in nine seasons, but struggled to mount sustained offensive drives with a unit that featured 10 new starters.
Players seemed to forget those growing pains on many Friday nights, however, including Western Sun Conference games against playoff-bound Geneva, Glenbard South and Kaneland that were decided in the fourth quarter.
“As tough as a year as we had, our guys gave everything they had every week, right up to the last sprint Wednesday night,” Batavia coach Mike Gaspari said. “As I told our seniors, that’s a mark of great young people. It’s been a tough year, but I’m really proud of them.”
Several seniors lingered on the field after Friday’s game, speaking with and thanking Gaspari and his assistants. They posed for pictures and looked beyond the south end of the stadium, where they had gathered for the first of two-a-days about 10 weeks before.
“I’ll always love being a Bulldog,” said Greco, a three-year starter. “I have no regrets this season.”
After allowing 174 rushing yards to gritty Rochelle in a Week 7 loss, Geneva limited Kaneland and Batavia to a total of 66 yards in victories to close the regular season.
“We’re going to keep stopping the run, that’s kind of what we take our pride in,” Vikings linebacker Asa Bielenberg said. “Making sure the run’s not there, putting them into a one-dimensional kind of offense. Then we trust our [defensive backs] to do their thing.”
Take note, runners Rakem Smith and Kevin Ludwig of Shepard, the Vikings’ first-round playoff opponent Saturday.
Run it back
St. Charles North had played an Upstate Eight Conference rematch in the first-round of the playoffs only once before drawing South Elgin this fall.
In 2005, the North Stars lost to crosstown rival St. Charles East, 40-35, to close the regular season, then fell to the Saints in the playoffs, 35-23, the following week.
North looks to avenge a loss again this time around. South Elgin, making its first playoff appearance in school history, defeated the North Stars in overtime in Week 8, 10-7.
“The boys were anxious and hoping for another shot at them,” North coach Mark Gould said. “The state gave it to us.”
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Nolan Possley St. Charles East, Sr., QB/LB What he did: Possley plunged ahead for a 1-yard run in double overtime that wound up being the game-winner in the Saints’ 14-13 victory against crosstown rival St. Charles North. The converted receiver captained the offense in a defensive struggle, throwing for 101 yards and running for 44 more. East’s victory clinched the school’s first Upstate Eight Conference title since 1998. Possley says: “I told coach as he was contemplating field goal or wedge, I said, ‘Wedge. We’ll get it. Our linemen are going to get the push. All five of the outside guys got the push, they clogged the middle. I believed in the guard and the tackle and just went outside.”
WHAT LAST WEEK TAUGHT US
Playing out the stretch doesn’t have to be dreadful. Two-win Batavia kept Geneva bottled up until the fourth quarter of Friday’s regular season finale, when Michael Santacaterina and the Vikings busted loose. At Aurora Central Catholic, the one-win Chargers grabbed an early lead and stayed close with defending Class 5A champion St. Francis after that, though Bob Miller eventually plodded ahead for the Spartans.
WHAT WE’LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
What kind of memories St. Charles North, Kaneland and St. Francis have. Each of those teams will play conference rematches in the first round of the playoffs, with Kaneland defeating Sycamore in Week 4, St. Francis drubbing Montini in Week 4 and North losing in overtime to South Elgin in Week 8. All but the St. Francis game were close, though Montini had made strides before losing at 8-1 Marmion on Friday.