Batavia pulls out 23-17 win over Wheaton North; 5-0 Geneva next
In a gut-check drive, Batavia's offensive line answered the call.
Wheaton North running back Walker Owens scored a touchdown to pull within two points with 5:30 left in the fourth quarter. Batavia, to that point, already had two touchdowns previously called back due to self-inflicted offensive penalties throughout the game.
Five consecutive Batavia rushes later, though, senior running back Charlie Whelpley bulldozed into the end zone for the ultimate clincher with 1:28 left. Wheaton North was immediately able to drive down the field for a 26-yard field goal by Luke Bellini with under 10 seconds left, but the ensuing onside kick try was recovered by Batavia's Kyle Porter to preserve the 23-17 Bulldogs win in Batavia.
"My thing is always [breathe] in and out [to stay calm]," David, the Batavia senior center said. "Breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth; calm yourself down, get the heart rate down and focus on your assignment."
Tackle Jonathan Brown, guard Frank Porcaro, David, guard Brendan Conklin and tackle Nick Ruiz have been the payday makers up front in their second season starting together as a unit for the Bulldogs, who ran for a collective 171 yards between Ryan Boe, Whelpley and Zach Granberg.
"If you know what you have to do, you can do it," David continued. "If you're thinking about what everybody else is doing, you're not going to know what you're doing."
Batavia (4-1, 3-0) opened the game on an 11-play drive that concluded on Boe's 1-yard touchdown run for the 7-0 early lead. After trading multiple punts, Batavia appeared to take a two-touchdown lead on a 12-yard completion to Luke Alwin, but the score was ruled back on a hold with 5:17 left in the first half. The ensuing fourth down try was thwarted by the Falcons for the turnover on downs.
Wheaton North then answered on a 34-yard touchdown by Max Howser to Rich Schilling to tie it with 1:13 before the half.
Out of the break, the Falcons (3-2, 2-1) were driving deep into Batavia territory, but a timely sack by Bulldogs linebacker Jacob Feller at the Bulldogs' 10-yard line forced a Howser fumble. Bulldogs defensive tackle Xavier Blanquel recovered it. Pat McNamara then converted a field goal for the 10-7 Batavia lead with 3:38 left in the third quarter.
Bulldogs linebacker RJ Bohr blocked a Bellini field goal try with 11:17 left in the fourth quarter. Batavia running back Nathan Whitwell cashed in on a 10-yard score, but the extra point was blocked, for the Bulldogs' 16-7 lead.
The Falcons quickly flipped the field on a 56-yard completion to Matt Kuczaj to set the stage for Owens' score and the finish.
"We had two touchdowns called back that should've been scores. We felt like we left points on the board," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. " ... I'm not saying they weren't calls. I don't know. It was like 'ugh, so frustrating,' and to finally break through ... I felt like there was times when again, offensively, we kind of dominated a little bit. [Wheaton North is] so well-coached. Offensively, the things that they do; the stuff they get after you, it's like, 'man, they never let up.'"
"They've got some really special players. They always do, but again, that's how that's supposed to feel," Piron continued. "I would think both of us are state-caliber teams ... this is playoff-feeling, right? Really good atmosphere. Really special job by our kids."
Boe was for 15 for 25 with 228 yards. Alwin shined for seven catches for 107 yards.
Howser finished 16 for 25 with 241 yards and a touchdown. Schilling had nine catches for 110 yards.
"There were chances for us to do some good things," Falcons coach Joe Wardynski said. "Some of it is [Batavia] is a quality team and they make things difficult on you, but we get down in the red zone, we got to get points on the board. So, if we kick field goals, we kick field goals, but we got to get points. We can't come out empty down there."
"We have some kids that can make plays for us," Wardynski said. "Howser's doing a great job leading us. I thought our O-line stood up tonight and did a pretty good job against their front. It's disappointing to walk off with a defeat, but I'm proud of the kids. I said: 'There's really nobody we shouldn't be able to play with.' I think we can learn from this and clean some things up and, hopefully, play a better game next week."