Slow start dooms Batavia at Lincoln-Way East
The Lincoln-Way East home jersey is a dark one, with a small "East" on the front and a small American flag on the back.
But during the first half of Friday night's nonconference game against Batavia those jerseys could have just as easily been mistaken for blackout curtains.
The Griffins forced in early turnover on downs and snagged two interceptions, all of which led directly or indirectly to points, as the Griffins built a 31-point first-half lead before claiming a 31-16 victory.
"It kind of felt like the Lincoln-Way East defense got a little of its swagger back in the first half," Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar said. "But we were certainly reminded of them of the second half, and that's there's a lot to get better at."
Lincoln-Way East (2-0) flexed its defensive muscle early. After Batavia made a gutsy call to try to convert a fourth-and-one in its own territory, the Griffins stuffed the play after a bobbled snap.
A few minutes later, Carter Nair got Lincoln-Way East on the board with a 47-yard field goal. Batavia (1-1) quickly went three-and-out on its next possession and then found itself in a 10-0 hole when Griffins quarterback Braden Tischer faked to a ball carrier, looked up found a seam and exploded on a dead sprint for a 55-yard score.
Batavia's next possession showed promise but was squelched by a Charlie Nevinger interception that set up an 18-yard touchdown pass from Tischer to Jimmy Curtin on the second play of the second quarter.
Yet another three-and-out came on Batavia's next possession, and this time it took the Griffins just three plays to traverse the field, as Jaden Cook hauled in a 56-yard touchdown pass from Tischer.
Batavia's next three-and-out possession was bailed out by a penalty, but the snowball continued to roll down hill as defensive lineman Caden O'Rourke picked off a pass and rambled for a 49-yard return that gave the Griffins a 31-0 lead that they carried into the halftime break.
"It was amazing out there. The whole defense was playing together," O'Rourke said. "We played together as one. It was really us working hard all week. We were just trying to play Lincoln-Way East defense. I feel like we weren't playing to our potential in the second half, but we'll be trying to get back there next week."
Batavia didn't allow itself to be rolled over in the second half. After finally crossing the midfield stripe for the first time in the game on its inaugural possession of the third quarter, Tyler Janzey broke up the Lincoln-Way East shutout bid by scoring from 14 yards out midway through the third quarter.
The Bulldogs appeared to be on their way to scoring again on their next possession, slipping behind the defense for a large gain, but fumbled the ball away inside the 10-yard line.
A 16-yard score from Batavia's Ryan Whitwell midway through the fourth quarter accounted for the final points of the game.
Those defensive lapses somewhat marred all of the accomplishments for his defense in the first half, Zvonar said.
"It was a tale of two halves," he said. "I certainly wouldn't have thought the first half would have happened like it did. But if we would have played a fifth and sixth quarter tonight it might not have ended well for us."
Batavia coach Dennis Piron wasn't OK with the way things materialized over the course of the game, but he was satisfied with how his team refused to cave in after the first half.