Batavia's special teams key quarterfinal win over Yorkville
Charlie Whelpley showcased a wide-ranging skill set Saturday, catching passes, throwing a halfback pass and running out the clock with power rushes between the tackles.
But his biggest impact came with his foot.
As Batavia's junior lined up to punt late in the first half, his team was looking for a momentum-turner - and Whelpley delivered.
"I was just trying to kick it as far as I could," Whelpley said. "It felt good off my foot. I kind of kicked it like a soccer ball. I just wanted to put the defense in position to stop them."
Indeed, Whelpley's 49-yard punt pinned Yorkville deep, and set the stage for Batavia's go-ahead touchdown in the final seconds of the first half.
It was one of many key special teams plays the Bulldogs needed to turn away visiting Yorkville 17-6 in a Class 7A quarterfinal.
Wisconsin recruit Tyler Jansey blocked an extra point and Iowa State commit Jack Sadowsky blocked a field goal for Batavia (9-3), which advanced to play at Lake Zurich next weekend in a rematch of the 2017 state championship game.
"Special teams I thought were big," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "Our kickoff game was solid, had great coverage and that made a difference with the field position stuff."
Batavia trailed Yorkville 6-3 with just over a minute left in the first half when Whelpley's rugby style punt kept rolling, and backed the Foxes up to their 6-yard line.
Batavia forced a three-and-out, and a 14-yard Yorkville punt set up the Bulldogs at the Foxes' 25. They capitalized on it with Ryan Boe's 10-yard touchdown pass to Luke Alwin on third and goal with 21.6 seconds left for a 10-6 halftime lead.
"Huge," Piron said. "That score we got was huge at the end of the first half. We didn't want to play it safe."
Batavia carried that momentum right into the second half, forcing a Yorkville three-and-out and going ahead 17-6 on a Ryan Whitwell 3-yard TD run.
"Ultimately we made too many mistakes and we aren't built to be down two scores," Yorkville coach Dan McGuire said. "It's not where we wanted to be."
Yorkville (10-2), in its first quarterfinal since 1999, allowed an Alec Crum field goal on Batavia's first possession, but took a 6-3 lead on Gio Zeman's 31-yard TD run with 3:18 left in the second quarter.
The Foxes, though, managed just three first downs the rest of the way - one coming on a Batavia penalty - and had just 55 yards of offense in the second half.
Yorkville twice had possessions start past midfield in the second half, but they resulted in a three-and-out turnover on downs and the blocked field goal.
Zeman rushed for 120 yards on 20 carries, 73 of the yards on two runs on the Foxes' lone scoring drive. Michael Dopart was 12-for-21 passing for 92 yards and was intercepted twice.
"We just didn't have enough dimensions offensively to threaten them," McGuire said. "We didn't have a vertical component aside from one play, we weren't able to threaten them and chip away enough to give Gio running lanes."
Sadowsky's block of a 40-yard field goal attempt came late in the third quarter, and came as no surprise to the Batavia senior linebacker.
"Thursday and Wednesday we were prepping against the field goal. We knew they had a weak point," Sadowsky said. "I wasn't supposed to be the one that go through. It just so happens that I have some arms and I got my hand on the ball."
Boe was 8-for-15 passing for 73 yards and Whitwell ran for 44 yards for Batavia, which won despite being held to its second-fewest points of the season and also turning it over twice.
Both of Batavia's TD drives came on short fields, which came in handy against a Yorkville defense that had posted five shutouts this season.
"They're hard to score on," Piron said. "We haven't seen a front four like that before. Proud of our kids for persevering."
Colorado State recruit Andrew Laurich, a three-year starter, is one of those four Yorkville senior defensive linemen, the last to leave the field Saturday. The Foxes reached the quarterfinals, and posted double-digit wins, for the first time since 1999. Luke Zook had an interception and blocked punt for the Foxes.
"I think we came here and we left it all out there," Laurich said. "Came in here this season, made a little history, we had a really good squad here growing up in youth tackle and sticking with each other. It's tough to say goodbye to all the guys, but we put up a fight."