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updated: 11/12/2011 11:59 PM

Buddy system benefits Batavia

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  • Batavia celebrates 42-0 win over Lakes at Lakes on Saturday.

       Batavia celebrates 42-0 win over Lakes at Lakes on Saturday.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Lakes wide receiver Drew Recker, center standing on the bench, gives a teammate a hug with seconds left on the clock as Lakes lost 42-0 against Batavia 42-0 at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.

       Lakes wide receiver Drew Recker, center standing on the bench, gives a teammate a hug with seconds left on the clock as Lakes lost 42-0 against Batavia 42-0 at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Lakes offensive lineman Isaac Soto covers his face on the sidelines with seconds left on the clock as Lakes lost 42-0 against Batavia 42-0 at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.

       Lakes offensive lineman Isaac Soto covers his face on the sidelines with seconds left on the clock as Lakes lost 42-0 against Batavia 42-0 at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Batavia's Kevin Schroeder and fans celebrate 42-0 win over Lakes at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.

       Batavia's Kevin Schroeder and fans celebrate 42-0 win over Lakes at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Batavia's Dom Guzaldo running the ball looks to dodge Lakes defender Alan Gomez during the first half at Lakes on Saturday, November 12.

       Batavia's Dom Guzaldo running the ball looks to dodge Lakes defender Alan Gomez during the first half at Lakes on Saturday, November 12.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Lakes running back Direll Clark clears two Batavia defenders during the first half at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.

       Lakes running back Direll Clark clears two Batavia defenders during the first half at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Lakes' offensive lineman Ty Summers walks along the sidelines with seconds left on the clock as Lakes lost 42-0 against Batavia 42-0 at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.

       Lakes' offensive lineman Ty Summers walks along the sidelines with seconds left on the clock as Lakes lost 42-0 against Batavia 42-0 at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Lakes' Tanner Blain punts the ball away against Batavia at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.

       Lakes' Tanner Blain punts the ball away against Batavia at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Lakes' Andrew Spencer runs the ball against Batavia during the first half at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.

       Lakes' Andrew Spencer runs the ball against Batavia during the first half at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Batavia sideline celebrates a touchdown early in the first quarter at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.

       Batavia sideline celebrates a touchdown early in the first quarter at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Batavia's quarterback throws the ball during the first half at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.

       Batavia's quarterback throws the ball during the first half at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Batavia running back Anthony Thielk leaps over Lakes defenders during the first half at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.

       Batavia running back Anthony Thielk leaps over Lakes defenders during the first half at Lakes on Saturday, November 12th.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

When one blocked a punt, the other was there to fall on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.

When one caused a fumble on a quarterback sack, the other was there to scoop it up to ensure a turnover.

There was an obvious connection between Cole Gardner and Austin Lewis on the football field Saturday night at Lakes High School. The two Batavia defensive linemen were reading each other well, and playing off of each other even better.

The kind of chemistry they showed over and over again in helping Batavia to a 42-0 Class 6A quarterfinal victory over Lakes in Lake Villa doesn't just develop overnight.

Then again, it usually doesn't take a lifetime to come together either.

But, that is indeed the case for Gardner and Lewis, who have literally known each other … forever.

"Since we were zero. That's how long we've known each other," Austin Lewis said with a laugh. "I was in the waiting room when Cole was born."

Amazingly, it's true.

Gardner's parents and Lewis's parents are best friends. In fact, the dads even played football together at Geneva High School. On the day that Cole was born 18 years ago at Delnor Hospital in Geneva, Austin's mom did what any good friend would do and went to the hospital to visit her friend and the new baby. She brought along Austin, who was about 4 or 5 months old at the time.

Cole and Austin have been good friends ever since. They grew up going to the same play dates and eventually played on the same youth football teams together.

Now, all these years later, they'll be moving on the state semifinals with the rest of the top-seeded Bulldogs, who improve to 12-0. They'll host No. 2 Prairie Ridge next week.

Fifth-seeded Lakes, meanwhile, wraps up its most successful season in school history with a 9-3 record.

"He's a great friend and we've hung out our whole lives," Gardner said of his relationship with Lewis. "There are pictures of Austin goofing around with me when I was first born. Our families have had Christmases together. When we got older, we'd play catch together all the time. We have such great chemistry. He plays right next to me on the line. It's great. We like to team up to do things together."

Gardner and Lewis gave Lakes a dose of their double trouble right away.

On the first series of the game, Lakes was forced to punt after just three plays. The Eagles were pinned deep in their own territory and punter Tanner Blain had to take the snap from his own end zone.

Blain never got the kick off.

The long arms of the 6-foot-6 Gardner blocked the punt and then Lewis, who was predictably nearby, fell on the ball in the end zone.

"That play was everything," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said of the blocked punt and early touchdown. "It set the tone and it showed the intensity that we played with all game long on special teams, on defense and on offense. We were very aggressive from the opening bell and I'm very, very proud of that effort."

By halftime, Batavia boasted a 21-0 lead, which included a 16-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Noel Gaspari to Gardner, who also plays tight end.

Gardner caught another touchdown pass (4 yards) midway through the third quarter to give the Bulldogs a 28-0 lead, and then teamed up with Lewis again to help set up another touchdown right before the end of the quarter.

Lakes had driven more than 50 yards to the Batavia 16-yard line with about 2 minutes left in the third quarter. But then Gardner chased down Lakes quarterback Chris Hoffman and while sacking him forced out the football.

Guess who landed on the ball?

Yep. Lewis.

Two plays later, the Bulldogs scored when Gaspari threw his third touchdown pass, a 69-yard bomb to Jon Gray.

"They swarmed the ball really good," Lakes quarterback Chris Hoffman said of the Batavia defense. "They're big and fast and they're just really good. We couldn't get anything going. We couldn't sustain anything."

And Lakes fullback Direll Clark, who was coming off of two straight games in which he rushed for 200-plus yards, was forced to work really hard for each and every one of his 109 rushing yards (on 24 carries).

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were able to roll up 394 total yards, 147 on the ground and 247 through the air with Gaspari. He completed 18-of-25 passes and spread the wealth between six receivers.

Evan Zeddies had 6 catches for 61 yards, Zach Strittmatter had 4 catches for 35 yards and Gray had 3 catches for 91 yards.

"When we play our best football, we're pretty hard to beat," Piron said. "We were clicking offensively and got in a great rhythm."

The Eagles had been in a great rhythm in winning their previous five games. They weren't ready to end their best season in school history.

Just six years into its existence, Lakes made the quarterfinals for the first time ever.

"You can't let the last game be the determining factor about how you think about your season," Lakes coach Luke Mertens said. "This one stings and it's hard to swallow but this was a great year for us. No one expected us to be here, especially (getting to the quarterfinals) as fast as we have (as a relatively new school). It's a tremendous accomplishment and it's a lot for us to be proud of."

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