July 15, 2024
Sports - Kane County

Sports - Kane County

Bulldogs shore up defense vs. Kaneland

BATAVIA — After this one, the Batavia football team is running out of demons to exorcise.

In the first half, Batavia solved its problems of slow starts and a sluggish running game. In the second half, the Bulldogs shored up their leaky defense.

By night’s end, Batavia had stared down an even greater nemesis – Kaneland. Batavia scored four first-half touchdowns and clamped down on the Knights in the second half Friday for a 31-21 Western Sun Conference victory.

The Bulldogs, whose offense has tilted toward the pass so far this season, ran a staggering 17 straight rushing plays to start the game, stretching into the second quarter.

“We’ve been trying to mix it up a little,” Bulldogs offensive lineman Phil Livingston said. “We’ve been getting the passing game established, and we wanted to get the running game established.”

After Kaneland claimed a quick lead on Pat Fleming’s diving, 31-yard touchdown catch from Joe Camiliere, Batavia’s Bai Kabba busted an 80-yard touchdown run on the Bulldogs’ first offensive play from scrimmage.

Kyle Duhig and Evan Olexa added rushing touchdowns for Batavia (3-2, 2-1 WSC) before Bulldogs quarterback Jordan Coffey was able to put his imprint on the outburst, linking up with homecoming king Erich Zeddies for a 39-yard touchdown pass that put the Bulldogs ahead 28-14, a lead they retained at halftime.

Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly was dismayed by the Knights’ early defense. By halftime, Kabba had rushed for 176 yards.

“For whatever reason at the start of the game, we weren’t doing our jobs, but I’m proud of how we came back in the second half,” Fedderly said.

After the game’s breakneck scoring pace slowed in the third quarter, the Knights (3-2, 2-1 WSC) narrowed Batavia’s lead to 28-21 in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter on Camiliere’s 10-yard scoring strike to Fleming.

Camiliere, a sophomore, was 28-for-47 passing for 349 yards and two touchdowns to go with two interceptions.

“We feel like we left a few plays out there, but we’re really happy with his progress,” Fedderly said.

A risky decision by Batavia coach Mike Gaspari solidified the Bulldogs’ win. Up 28-21, the Bulldogs faced fourth-and-2 at their own 37-yard line with 10:45 to go in the game. Batavia went for it, and Coffey picked up the first – barely – on a sneak.

“It just felt like the right thing to do, and I believe in the kids,” Gaspari said. “And I’m not very smart.”

The drive yielded a 28-yard field goal by Zeddies for the final margin with 7:13 to go.

Even with a 10-point lead, it was an uneasy feeling for Batavia until the closing minutes against a Kaneland team that took deep shots downfield early and often.

“They’ve got the athletes to do it,” Gaspari said. “It’s a little bit like playing sandlot football.”

Kabba, who finished with 218 rushing yards on 27 carries, and his teammates can smell the postseason after beating a Kaneland program that ruined two perfect Batavia regular seasons in the past four years.

“This one was about pride,” Kabba said. “It was about breaking a losing streak. It was about the fans, about the guys who came back [for homecoming], it was about the coaches, but most of all, it was about the players. It’s a really big win for us.”

Jay Schwab

Jay Schwab

Jay Schwab was the Kane County Chronicle Sports Editor from 2008-15