Behind Jalen Buckley, Batavia rallies to win OT thriller over Wheaton North in DuKane opener

Buckley runs for 193 yards, game-winning TD in OT in 23-20 Bulldogs’ win

BATAVIA – One might imagine many will forget Jalen Buckley’s game-opening fumble once the haze of the overtime euphoria dissipates.

Buckley, with the game-winning touchdown in overtime to lift Batavia over Wheaton North 23-20 on Friday, sure didn’t.

”I made some bad plays earlier in this game,” said Buckley, a Batavia senior, who ran for 193 yards and the game-winning score. “I fumbled the first play of the game [and] missed [a] touchdown [saving] tackle and I knew I just had to put my team on my back because I didn’t want to let my brothers down.”

Short-term memory?

“Yep,” Buckley affirmed, who scampered in on third-and-goal from 3-yard-line to clinch the overtime victory.

In the fourth quarter alone, Buckley had 140 rushing yards.

“…I definitely want the ball. If anybody gets the ball, I want it to be me. I know I can put this team on my back and carry them to a win.”

Wheaton North (2-1, 0-1) scored first in overtime on Kyle Kapel’s 27-yard field goal to give the Falcons a 20-17 lead, setting the stage for Buckley’s game-winner.

Batavia (3-0, 1-0) rallied from a double-digit deficit for the second straight week. In Week 2, the Bulldogs came back from 13 down to beat Oswego 21-13.

”Such a huge win against such a quality team that comes out roaring against people,” Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. “Our defense was outstanding. Our kids love overtime. It’s the weirdest doggone thing. It isn’t like there’s nerves or anything. It’s just exciting.“

”We’re given a chance – you only get nine games normally,” Piron continued. “You get a little free smidge of football extra. We talk about it all the time. Just a great group of boys.”

Batavia trailed 17-7 with 7:24 remaining in the third quarter after Wheaton North’s Brayton Maske rumbled for a 20-yard touchdown. Two Batavia possessions later, it was Buckley who blazed his way for an 83-yard score moments into the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to three.

On the ensuing Falcons possession, Batavia linebacker Brody Osborne sacked Wheaton North senior quarterback Mark Forcucci (13-of-25, 117 yards) to force a punt. It set the stage for a 14-play Batavia drive that was capped by sophomore kicker Pat McNamara’s 27-yard field goal with 1:41 remaining to tie the game.

The Falcons then pushed their way to the Batavia-17, but a false start knocked them back. Forcucci’s ensuing miracle toss into the end zone to close regulation was knocked away, by – who else – Buckley.

”[Buckley’s] got special skills. Ryan Boe is just growing up right before your eyes. Our offensive line gets better and better every single week...We’re still just scratching the surface,” Piron said.

Wheaton North took a 10-7 lead into the half. Maske (79 rushing yards, two touchdowns) had a 1-yard score with 8:29 in the first quarter. The Falcons then hit a 23-yard field goal for the 10-0 advantage. The ensuing possession, Boe found AJ Sanders for an 8-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to three with 7:23 left in the half.

The Falcons closed the first half with a pair of brutal penalties, one of which wiped out an initial 46-yard touchdown, after a holding penalty. The next play, another long completion, but an unsportsmanlike conduct call against the Falcons backed them up to a 2nd-and-35, which Forcucci was then intercepted by Ryan Whitwell.

“I told them: It wasn’t ‘want-to’; it wasn’t ‘desire’; it wasn’t ‘effort’; it was execution,” Falcons coach Joe Wardynski said. “We had moments through the game where we didn’t execute well enough. We had too many penalties. We didn’t convert when we needed to on third downs. The kids battled; they’re hurting right now because they wanted this one.”

”Batavia earned it; they earned it in the fourth quarter. They played better than we did,” Wardynski continued. “All we can do is get better. Next time we get in that situation, we got to handle it better.”

Jacob Bartelson

Jacob Bartelson

Jake is a full-time sports reporter writing primarily for the Kane County Chronicle covering preps. His collective work is featured across several Shaw markets and platforms, including Friday Night Drive and Bears Insider. Jake began full-time in 2017.