CHICAGO – One one side of the field, pandemonium and euphoria flowed just seconds after Denny Furlong’s game-winning touchdown run off the right edge to stun Batavia 16-14 on an untimed run on the last play of a Class 7A second-round playoff game.
On the opposite side sat a stunned, shocked Batavia team that was simply trying to process and rationalize the final minute of a drive that will likely forever leave them asking “what if”?
Emotions ran so high – chaos ensued near midfield with coaches from both programs holding players back – that handshakes were not exchanged. Batavia running back Jalen Buckley patiently waited to do so before eventually joining his team on the far side of the field.
“I did shake [Mt. Carmel coach Jordan] Lynch’s hand at midfield,” Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. “It wasn’t a sportsmanship issue. It was a safety issue at that point at time. Things never got to a level of calmness [at the game’s end] for either team [for it to happen].”
After the hot scene subsided, Batavia’s players and coaches could collect their thoughts. But they were stung by two pass interference calls on Mt. Carmel’s final drive, the first on an incomplete fourth-down pass and the second on what would have been the final play of the game.
“I’ve never felt in a game more – I want to use the right word here, OK – the game was taken out of the hands of the players,” Piron said. “The play on the field. We won that game three times at the end there. Three times.”
The Bulldogs – previously undefeated at 10-0 entering Friday – were tagged with three critical second half holding calls that helped stall drives.
“What was worse was: Any play that we had in the second half that was substantial on runs, we got called holding calls,” Piron said. “I don’t know what the [penalty] numbers were; they were bad. They were bad…I just felt like we were playing against two teams. I think that’s what I’ll use. It [was] like we were playing against two teams…I never seen that in my life.”
Mt. Carmel, with the win, advanced to play the winner of Saturday’s Brother Rice-Yorkville game.
It seemed unlikely with the Caravan (8-3) down 14-10 with two minutes left.
On a 4th-and-18 48 yards away from the end zone, Mt. Carmel quarterback Blainey Dowling (7-for-13, 96 yards) heaved a deep pass on the far side of the field that appeared to sail well over the head of the Caravan receiver – but the Bulldogs were tagged with a defensive pass interference to keep Mt. Carmel’s drive alive.
Five plays later, the Caravan found itself at the Batavia 7. After a trick pass play from Darrion Dupree fell incomplete, four seconds remained.
The next play, a Dowling pass in traffic was broken up by Anthony Roberts, but a defensive pass interference was called again.
Moving the ball up to the Batavia-3, the Caravan were tagged for an apparent delay of game, backing them up even further with the untimed down.
“[The refs] didn’t tell me anything the whole game,” Piron said. “I didn’t get a single clarification on a call hardly ever the entire game. It was very confusing. It was very confusing. They were confused on calls. I asked them for clarification and they were just like ‘move the ball’. I felt like it was in a practice or something. I don’t know. It was very confusing. The entire game. Beginning until end.”
Furlong took care of the rest, beating a slew of Batavia rushers to the edge for the score.
“The play was designed for me,” Caravan junior Damarion Arrington said of the game-winning play. It was ‘Bunch Right Arrington’…I told Furlong he could have it. I was like: ‘You got this, Furlong’…I have faith in my brothers. No doubt. I have faith in them.”
“Just making sure they don’t make it past us in the secondary,” junior defensive lineman Danny Novickas said of the key to limit Batavia in the second half. “We all play as one. One person messes up, it’s everybody’s fault…that’s the result: the score.”
Buckley scored on Batavia’s opening possession of the game for a 7-0 lead, but Mt. Carmel came back to tie it with Dowling’s 21-yard TD pass to Darrion Gilliam. Batavia quarterback Ryan Boe (5-of-12, 100 yards) responded with a 37-yard touchdown pass to AJ Sanders the next drive. The Caravan hit a field goal before the half to cut Batavia’s lead to 14-10, where it remained until the final play of the game.
“Hurts,” Buckley said following his 45-yard performance. “It’s going to hurt for a long time. But, I know these guys behind me got it.”