Editor's note: This story was updated Saturday evening to include more photos and comments from Batavia Football Head Coach Dennis Piron and starting quarterback Noel Gaspari.
A magical season has come to an end.
Batavia lost to Prairie Ridge Saturday 22-33. The Bulldogs hosted the Wolves at for the Class 6A semifinal.
Batavia finished with , one of their most winning seasons ever along with the 2006 team and its 12-2 record.
"We all did a great job getting here but the outcome just wasn't what we wanted it to be," quarterback Noel Gaspari told Batavia Patch after the game. "It has been an awesome year."
The Bulldogs led the Wolves 14-13 during the first half. The second half became shakier as two Batavia drives were damaged by an illegal block and a punishing tackle that sent senior wide receiver Evan Zeddies to the ground.
"This is not going to be easy to get over for a long time for these boys or for these coaches," said Dennis Piron, Batavia's head football coach.
Prairie Ridge put points on the board first, but Batavia was able to tie them with starting senior quarterback Noel Gaspari's 48-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jon Gray during the first quarter.
The Wolves came back with more points, but the Bulldogs would not be denied in the second quarter.
Junior wide receiver Zach Strittmatter had a second-quarter touchdown. With an extra-point kick, Batavia took the lead at 14-13.
Gaspari's Determined Drive
The third quarter became challenging for Batavia as the Wolves' Jordan Getzelman nabbed a 18-yard touchdown run with 3:44 left in that quarter.
Then a Prairie Ridge interception picked from behind senior fullback Cole Gardner ended with a touchdown. Junior safety Sean Folliard jarred the ball loose from Gardner on a fourth-and-two play at the Wolves’ 18-yard line to stop a Bulldog drive.
Batavia took out a two-point conversion attempt, but the Wolves got in the endzone yet again to lead 33-14.
"There were some plays near the end of the third quarter that kind of dug ourselves a little more of a hole than we needed, or I really thought we could have won the game," Piron said.
That was when the Bulldogs began to mount a comeback.
Noel Gaspari, who was 28-of-48 for 363 yards and three touchdowns, engineered a 5-play, 48-second drive, capped by a 4-yard TD pass to Evan Zeddies. Gaspari’s two-point pass to Jon Gray cut the Wolves’ lead to 33-22.
After forcing a Prairie Ridge punt, an apparent 28-yard TD pass to Gray was nullified by an illegal block penalty. Throws to sophomore wide receiver Mike Moffatt and Zeddies were no good.
With 3:18 left, Folliard took the ball away from Zeddies in the end zone for his second interception of the game, setting off a wild celebratory scene on the Wolves’ sideline.
Piron saw things from a different perspective.
"Two really tough calls took away two touchdowns," Piron said. "We fought to the bitter end. I think you just saw the two best teams in Illinois."
Still A Winning Season
Without a doubt, the Bulldogs had a remarkable year.
"These kids are like my own children," Piron said. "I've known Noel Gaspari since the day he was born. These kids are like family. It's a special group of kids."
Thanks to everyone for supporting the team, and thanks for following along here on Batavia Patch!
Regular Season (9-0), (6-0)