May 19, 2024
Sports - Kane County

Sports - Kane County

Batavia Bulldogs football turns over a new leaf

CHAMPAIGN – While one chapter of Batavia football came to a close Saturday, another one already is off to a promising beginning.

The Bulldogs fell to Normal, 30-20, in the IHSA Class 6A state title game at Memorial Stadium. But with senior quarterback Alex Schroeder knocked out with a separated left shoulder, sophomore Jordan Coffey succeeded in keeping Batavia in the game.

Coffey, the varsity punter all season while quarterbacking the sophomore team for the second straight season, was no stranger to getting pushed into action in a big game. He threw the game-winning touchdown in a 40-37, second-round win against St. Viator, with Schroeder out with a concussion.

This time, however, Coffey had to play for more than a half. He pulled the Bulldogs out of a 20-point hole and gave them a chance to come back and tie the game. He completed 13 of 26 passes for 215 yards in the loss.

“He’s one of those kids that’s a special player,” Batavia coach Mike Gaspari said. “I’m not sure St. Viator was indicative of the kind of player he is (2-for-7 passing), but it certainly didn’t hurt his chances to be successful [Saturday]. But on a stage like this, it takes a special young man to step in like he did.”

The performance was not without its rough spots. In three of his first four possessions, Coffey tossed interceptions.

The first one did not concern Gaspari. It came on the final play of the first half, but it did provide a lesson.

“Varsity is a different speed level than he is used to,” Schroeder said. “Things look open, but they get covered a lot faster.”

The second one came in the third quarter on the first play after the Bulldogs forced a three-and-out. It was a flea flicker, and after receiving the pitch back from Tharryn Wright, Coffey was picked off by Kennedy Freeman.

That wound up not hurting so badly because Brandon Holl intercepted Normal’s Omar Clayton four plays later.

“That’s on me,” Gaspari said of the flea flicker call. “Probably not the best field position to do that, but I got overanxious to run that play, and I shouldn’t have run it from there.”

The third pick was most costly. It was returned for a 41-yard touchdown by Cam McIntosh to let Normal open a 27-7 lead.

But Coffey did not fold like a sophomore. He gave Batavia fans a glimpse of what is to come the next two years by hooking up with fellow sophomore Ryan Webb for a 50-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive.

“I’m really looking forward to having him as a receiver next year,” Coffey said.

Webb had a breakout game himself, catching four passes for a career-high and team-high 114 yards in the game.

“Ryan has a tremendous amount of ability,” Gaspari said. “Ryan didn’t get into the mix probably as much as he could have, but they let him go a couple of times because they were pretty conscious of Alex Warner the whole time.

“Great outing for him for the future, along with Jordan. It will be a good springboard for those guys into next year.”

Coffey exhibited the poise of a veteran on his next touchdown pass, a 43-yard strike to senior Dan Schmitt, Coffey’s third check-down on the route.

Coffey is expected to battle with junior Jack Creed for the starting quarterback job next season, but Saturday was a good start.

“He’s got a bright future ahead of him,” Schroeder said of Coffey. “Jack’s very good, too, so they’ll have quite a battle for that position next year.”

The Bulldogs will have several major holes to plug on defense, though, with the graduations of standout defensive ends Kevin McFarland and Mike Garrity among the most challenging losses.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson has been a sports reporter in the Chicago area since 1999