June 01, 2023
Sports - Kane County

Sports - Kane County

Bulldogs fans get bragging rights

Vikings fans react to a Geneva incomplete pass during the first half of Saturday's semifinal game against Batavia. Batavia went on to win, 28-0. (Travis Haughton photo)

“We’re going to state,” screamed Batavia junior Kelly Johnson, 16.  

Her three friends, who also wore red and gold face paint with bulldog paws adorning each cheek, joined in the ear-splitting howl of joy.

Although the drama on the football field ended with a 28-0 victory for the Batavia High School Bulldogs over the Geneva Vikings, a different story unfolded in the stands. Teenagers and adults screamed with elation or moaned in despair with each play.

People huddled for warmth, some wearing horned toques, some dog caps. A white-frothed ocean of blue faced a ketchup-mustard sea.

Children ran and tackled, emulating the heroes on the field, from whom they are separated by less than a decade.

A group of self-styled “bad kids” with faux-leather biker jackets jeered at the fans from the other side of the fence, but even they were there, part of The Game.

After four years in the marching band, Geneva senior Pat Riordan, 18, finally was able to watch a game from the stands. He wore a Viking helmet, and his face was painted blue, with a white “G” under his right eye and a “V” under his left.

“Anything that can be done to support Geneva must be done,” he said during halftime. “If we win this game, we’ll have bragging rights forever.”

Although those bragging rights went south of Fabyan Parkway, fans on both side showed their true, or at least school, colors.

Batavia freshman Hillary Birch, 15, was one of the Bulldogs who opted to paint her face half-red, half-gold.

“It sounded like fun because, like, I wanted to stand out at the game,” she said.

Geneva freshman Anthoni Villaruz, 14, was also bifurcated with paint, but his was blue and white.

“I’m full of school spirit,” he said.

The football player said he paints “only [for] important games like Kaneland and Batavia.”

Batavia freshman Nathan Wieske, 14, said he hoped the red and blue gel clumping in his hair would wash out.

“I wanted the hair spray stuff, but my mom brought the gel and she made me,” he said. “I’ve got church tomorrow and there’s a lot of Geneva kids at my church.

People who never attended either school also had emotional stakes in the game.

Jake Peterman, 15, came from Sycamore for the game. He moved from Batavia when he was in seventh grade, but loves the Bulldogs.

“Once you go to Batavia, you’ve always got spirit,” he said.

Peterman, a freshman, said he prefers Batavia to Sycamore High School, but doesn’t want that fact to get back to his friends.

Outside the stadium, Geneva backers Dan and Terri Riner, 45 and 39, respectively, were watching with their sons Ben, 5, and Bryce, 8.

“We just live in the neighborhood. Never miss a game,” Dan Riner said. “It’s a cheap family event and it’s a competitive thing. Amateur football is great.”

In the final minute, Batavia teens started pouring from the stands. Stopped clocks with 16.4, 10.2 and 3.9 seconds remaining raised the tension.

Then the clock ran out and the red and gold side exploded with hugs and screams.