Batavia-Geneva hits 100-year milestone
Anthony Scaccia, Batavia football
helmets_1ps092005RW photo0444592 Rick West tri ///// Geneva HS football helmet.
helmets_2ps092005RW photo0444592 Rick West tri ///// Batavia HS football helmet.
A landmark number in a premier rivalry, this year marks the 100th year of football between Batavia and Geneva high schools.
The 94th meeting — the teams have not played every year since 1913, weird things like the influenza epidemic of 1918 or Batavia's "retrenchment" of 1934-36 periodically interrupting matters — will commence with the 7:30 p.m. Friday kickoff at Bulldog Stadium in Batavia.
For excavating little nuggets such as the 12 fumbles that occurred in the 6-6 tie of 1958 to compiling big-ticket items like Geneva's overall series lead of 51 wins, 37 losses and 5 ties, thank goodness to Batavia Public Library Director George H. Scheetz.
Presenting a fun- and fact-filled 22 pages, the man assembled "The Biggest Game of the Season: Batavia Bulldogs vs. Geneva Vikings," to be published at www.BataviaHistory.org. Mr. Scheetz graciously sent a preview copy of this historical document to media outlets including the Daily Herald.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, who grew up in Omaha, Neb., attended St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights and bumped around other Midwestern burghs until moving to Batavia in December 2004 from Champaign, he's settled in nicely to document the rivalry, continuing the process begun by the late local sports writer, Les Hodge.
"What started off as a personal quest to fill in the gaps on a chart — the historical record of the Batavia-Geneva football rivalry — turned into a full-fledged research project and a major hobby," Scheetz said.
"The research has reminded me of one of the reasons why I became a librarian in the first place: The thrill of research and tracking down the answers to elusive questions.
"I am a collector of many things," he said, "and this kind of research is very much like building a collection, only the focus is not on stamps, or coins, or even books, but facts and the pursuit of knowledge."
Scheetz dedicates "The Biggest Game" to Batavia head coach Dennis Piron, cited for his help and support of the project and saluted for leading the Bulldogs to their 2011 undefeated regular season and Upstate Eight Conference River Division title in his first year — which included the series' most combined points in one game, Batavia beating Geneva 46-34. (The next greatest total, and greatest margin of victory, was the Bulldogs' 64-0 win in 1916.)
Along with myriad books, newspapers past and present and other sources such as the Batavia Depot Museum and the great website Illinois High School Glory Days, Scheetz also acknowledged help from individuals such as longtime Geneva Republican editor Allen Mead, Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke, Bulldogs super fan George Von Hoff, Jeane Roberts — the late mother of former Bulldogs basketball coach Jim Roberts — and 1975 Geneva graduate Kurt Wehrmeister, director of communications and public affairs for Moose International and legendary Geneva public address announcer (and Anthem singer).
"The Biggest Game" is chockablock with quirky info and asides, such as mention of the 1915 Batavia yearbook, the "Bee Aitch Ess," or that the 1960 season was the first to require full face protection on helmets.
In a section on stadiums of both schools, Scheetz notes that in 1936 while Geneva's Burgess Field was being "rebuilt and improved as a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project," a temporary field 100 yards long from goal to goal was used.
" ...(T)he officials were obliged to set the ball back when either team reached the ten yard line," the Geneva Republican reported on Oct. 9, 1936.
Geneva blue and white and Batavia's crimson and gold are referenced as far back as 1901 and 1911, respectively — interesting considering the merger of East Batavia and West Batavia in 1911. Which leads us to nicknames.
Both schools, records suggest, were identified by their colors at various times. But the biggest shocker, for the uninitiated, is from 1932-34 and perhaps into the early 1940s Batavia's nickname was the ... Vikings!
The Bulldogs didn't come into fashion until 1945 — a 1945 Batavia graduate, Paul Bergeson, told Scheetz the name was chosen by a student vote — while Geneva picked up the Vikings moniker in 1942 just as Batavia was letting it go. Geneva had simply been known as the Blue and White, the document says, though the Scheetz concedes the early history of Geneva's nicknames is incomplete.
Fans on Friday will care much more about the outcome than the colors. "The Biggest Game" of course lists the result of every game played in the series, with a total of 173 points separating the two teams over 93 games, in Geneva's favor.
The series includes scoreless ties in 1933 and 1946, and a 2-0 Geneva win in 1950. Though the score of the 1951 game reads Geneva 13, Batavia 7, Scheetz notes that according to Batavia's 1952 "Echo" yearbook, it "shall always be remembered as a tie." Them's fightin' words.
The most lopsided score was that 64-0 Batavia blowout while the games of 1919, 1960 and 1961 were decided by a single point. Batavia won the only overtime game since a tiebreaker was implemented in 1975, winning 20-17 in four overtimes. The 2006 season was the only time the teams met twice in one season, Batavia winning in the regular season and again, 28-0 in the Class 6A semifinals to reach the state championship.
Then there was Geneva's 19-game winning streak between 1967-85, which coincided with the bulk of coach Jerry Auchstetter's tenure. Another Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer, Mike Gaspari, arrived at Batavia to temper the onslaught, and despite Geneva's 18-15 win in 1994 — led by current St. Charles North coach Mark Gould — by the mid-'90s the Bulldogs held sway.
"It wasn't a rivalry when I got there," said Vikings coach Rob Wicinski, who arrived in 1999, in the midst of an eight-game Vikings losing streak. "You've got to have two teams to have a rivalry, and we just kept walking on the field and got our butts kicked."
Wicinski, whose own high school rivalry was his Ottawa team against Ottawa-Marquette, has recovered to win five of the last nine contests entering Friday.
His prep football rivalry in Ottawa, he said, was mainly for community pride, where Batavia-Geneva adds another layer.
"Here, it's beyond kids from the same town," he said. "There's actually quite a bit at stake normally. You don't go in there footloose and fancy-free, all loosey-goosey, there's usually something on the line.
" ... I tell my players every year I love Batavia," Wicinski said. "They look at me like I'm nuts. It brings out the best in us. It brings out a level of respect, a level of genuine want — to want to do well."
George Scheetz did well in excavating all the facts and bringing them to life. We can honor him Friday by standing and yelling in unison this 1920s cheer he unearthed. (Apologies to the Vikings, but if you insert "Geneva" in the appropriate place, well, that's just fine.)
"Strawberry shortcake, Huckleberry pie,
Are we in it? Well I guess
Batavia High School, Yes, yes yes!"
In the running
St. Charles North heads the local girls teams in the first Illinois Cross Country Coaches Poll of the season in Class 3A.
Nina Olshever, Ashley England, Kaylee Wessel and the rest of the North Stars, hot off the title of last Saturday's Leavey Invite, open the poll in ninth place, three spots ahead of St. Charles East. Geneva's girls get a "best of the rest" nod in the poll, headed by Glenbard West.
On the boys side, what a surprise, York heads the poll. West Aurora and St. Charles North are among the best of the rest.
Over at Mike Newman's Illinois Prep Harrier website, among the Class 1A scene he currently ranks Aurora Christian's boys and girls teams 22nd in their respective polls.
Newman rates Kaneland No. 12 in the boys Class 2A poll, and Aurora Central Catholic No. 24, up one place from his initial poll. He has Kaneland's girls cross country team even higher, No. 3 in 2A, behind Crystal Lake Central and conference foe Yorkville. St. Francis sits at No. 14.
The Edward Neurosciences Institute, in affiliation with the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, will offer a free program, "What Parents, Coaches Need to Know about Concussions," from 7-8:30 p.m. Sept. 12 in the Edward Hospital Auditorium, 801 S. Washington St., Naperville.
Neurologists and concussion experts Dr. Henry Echiverri and Dr. Mohammad Sajed will discus signs and symptoms of concussions, laws concerning the injury, and the evaluation process that determines when an athlete can return to competition. A free book, "Parent's Guide to Sports Concussions," will be distributed.
Registration is required; call (630) 527-6363 or visit edward.org/concussion.
Set the date
Volleyball's obviously huge in these parts, so the 2012 Chicago Classic might be of interest.
Held at Mother McAuley High School in Chicago this Saturday and Sunday, the event brings in Penn State and Oregon State along with locals DePaul and University of Illinois-Chicago. Four matches will be held on Saturday and two more on Sunday.
For times and costs, call (773) 238-4859 or email email@example.com.
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