BATAVIA – Alec Crum had one more year to give football a shot.
Crum, a Batavia senior, played varsity soccer his junior year. He played soccer his entire life, but he credits his father for instilling the encouragement to try football for the first time.
“I guess he kind of knew,” Crum said at Batavia’s Media Night ahead of the Class 7A state final vs. Mount Carmel on Saturday in Champaign. “He knew it was right for me and I think it’s something I got to go by.
At the beginning of the summer, Crum took his chance and attended Batavia football’s summer camp.
“Moving over [from soccer], it was kind of like: ‘Oh, it’s just Crum. He’s just the kicker,’ but, as I started to play more and do more kicks, I began to become one of the family,” Crum said. “...I saw the opportunity for the football summer camp and I [thought] I want to try that because I can use my soccer skills to kick.”
“It’s funny, because the last couple years, we’ve had some kids come over from soccer,” Batavia special teams coordinator Billy Colamatteo said, referencing past players like Ben Holcombe. “Crum’s dad, Mick, has worked with our [Batavia Youth Football] program...he told me last year ‘I think my son is going to come out for football next year.’”
The process to get Crum ready fired up last winter, getting footballs and kicking tees and working through the next several months.
“He has a really strong leg,” Colamatteo said. “I just tell him: Kick the ball far...all the credit goes to him. He puts all that time and effort in [and] he’s been doing it [for a while]. Going into a first varsity game [last August] and kicking a field goal is a big deal; especially down the stretch here. We trust him and the kids trust him.”
That decision has ultimately become Batavia’s gain, as Crum enters Saturday’s game 42-of-45 on extra points made and is 4-of-7 on field goal attempts. Crum has scored 54 points for the Bulldogs and has 21 touchbacks from kickoff duties.
“[With touchbacks], to make a team drive 80 yards on you, it not only is a boost of confidence for the defense; it’s critical in our field position,” Colamatteo said.
Crum’s role come Saturday could be pivotal, considering flipping field position on kickoffs or finishing drives for the offense with points to show for it.
“I’ve had a few rough games – a lot of good games – but I think I’m going to pull it together,” Crum said. “I’ve been practicing really hard this week. I think I can get it [done] for this game.”
Crum had a missed field goal in the final few regulation minutes of Batavia’s double overtime victory over Hersey in the second round a few weeks ago, but that’s just an example of the next-play-mentality Crum will have to exhibit.
“Every time I miss, I think ‘I just got to get back in and go to the next next one and make the next one,’” Crum said.
Whelpley continues swiss army knife role
Charlie Whelpley is almost a certainty to be around the football one way or another.
Whelpley, a Batavia junior, simply has a lot on his plate with all the hats he wears for the Bulldogs. He sometimes has junior quarterback Ryan Boe keep him in check mentally as he balances all those roles.
“He gets me on the right track,” Whelpley said. “I just try to succeed [at what I have to do].”
Whelpley entered the season expecting to maintain just a traditional running back and blocking role for lead tailback Ryan Whitwell.
“But, then, I started opening up my box I guess,” Whelpley said.
That box has expanded to doing virtually anything: Catching passes, running the ball, blocking, throwing passes and punting.
Whelpley has 348 rushing yards, 85 passing yards and is the team’s leading receiver with 44 receptions and 511 receiving yards.
Punting, though, isn’t an unfamiliar role for him, as he’s punted all throughout high school rising to the ranks to varsity.
“The one thing with Charlie that kind of goes unnoticed is: His hang-time is incredible [and] we don’t get a lot of big-time returns,” Colamatteo said. “Which is so important. But, Charlie, he does a rugby [style] punt, he does regular punts. He’s just an incredible athlete.”