Batavia football's second season came to a sudden, emotional conclusion Friday night.
The Bulldogs finished round one of the Class 7A football playoffs 38-26 behind Downers Grove North. The Dogs (9-1) came off a second consecutive undefeated regular season and as a reigning state semifinalist.
“Our kids didn’t play flat," Batavia Head Coach Dennis Piron said after the game. "(Downers Grove North) made some plays on us because they have some skill (players on offense). I don’t feel bad at all about this football game. I feel bad for the seniors. I have nothing but praise for our kids. I don’t want them to have any regrets.”
David Edward closed out previously undefeated Batavia after Brandon Salter placed Downers Grove North in an enviable position.
For the second time in five years, the Trojans have fundamentally altered the landscape of the Class 7A football playoffs. They now advance to second-round play against Thornton, which denied Thornton Fractional South.
Salter was tough all evening for the Trojans, rushing for 229 yards and snapping the lone tie of the game, 7-7, with a scamper from 55 yards out.
The senior fullback in the Trojans’ pro-set offense then rumbled 84 yards on the ensuing possession. Downers North extended its 24-13 halftime lead when Edwards connected with Richard Olekanma on the first possession of the second half.
Dogs Fight Back
Batavia, seeking to duplicate its stirring comeback over Niles Notre Dame in the first round of the playoffs last year, stormed back with consecutive scores to make it a one-score game, 31-26, four minutes into the fourth quarter.
Edwards’ resolve came to the forefront as he directed the Trojans on a nine-play, 65-yard drive that the sophomore signal-caller capped by calling his own number from 14 yards out. His second rushing score enabled the Trojans to escape Batavia as the Bulldogs’ last-ditch fourth-and-goal play from the Trojans’ 6-yard line ended in a Liam McKenna pass deflection.
Downers MVP: Salter, Downers North. The senior running back escaped Batavia with a career-high 229 yards and a pair of long scores as the Trojans finished with 322 yards rushing as a team. Salter rumbled 55 yards the first time he touched the ball for his first score, and his 84-yard second-quarter jaunt gave him 146 yards rushing on his first four attempts.
“First of all, (the career high in yardage) was the work of the guys upfront on the offensive line," Salter said. "The coaches were saying before the game, ‘Who’s going to be the hero for us? Who was going to stand out?’"
Downers North Stat Pack: In addition to the 229 yards Salter accumulated, Edwards carried 15 times for 61 punishing yards. The sophomore quarterback had a lone incompletion in throwing for 89 yards. Stephen Kanis’ back-to-back interceptions for Downers North were part of three turnovers forced, a blocked punt and Batavia forfeiting possession on downs twice.
Batavia Stat Pack: In spite of the performance by Salter, Junior Batavia scatback Anthony Scaccia rushed 13 times for 155 yards to power the Bulldogs’ offense. The junior scored once. Senior Zach Strittmatter caught five passes from junior quarterback Micah Coffey, including a pair of scores, as part of his 82 yards in reception. Cullin Rokos was the Bulldogs’ defensive stalwart as the senior rumbled 42 yards with a fumble recovery for a score early in the second quarter.