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updated: 10/26/2013 11:42 PM

Batavia drops down to Class 6A

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Three students.

That was the enrollment margin placing Batavia as a No. 2 seed in Class 6A when the Illinois High School Association football playoff pairings were announced Saturday night.

Batavia, which entered the 2012 playoffs as a No. 1 seed in Class 7A, will host No. 15 DeKalb in 6A. The Bulldogs have the classification's highest enrollment at 1,964 students. Plainfield East, in 7A, has an enrollment of 1,966.

"That was a surprise, I thought we were 7A," said Batavia coach Dennis Piron, 8-1 this season. "Our kids had kind of been talking about how we haven't won a game in 7A yet. They were really geared up for 7A football."

If the class is a surprise to some extent the opponent isn't. DeKalb (5-4) played with Batavia in the Western Sun Conference before the league disbanded after 2009.

"Our kids just want to play, so we're looking forward to playing DeKalb and that's cool, and we're happy to be hosting here at Batavia. We're happy to be the host and that'll be a bit like the old days," Piron said.

A more recent rivalry was renewed three weeks ago when IC Catholic beat an injury-depleted Aurora Christian team 48-6. The two Class 3A teams will square off in the first round, No. 7 seed IC (6-3) hosting the 10th-seeded Eagles (6-3). Two-time defending 3A champion Aurora Christian bounced the Knights in the second round last season.

"It's always tough to play a team twice, once during the season then play them in the playoffs," Eagles coach Don Beebe said. "I think all the coaches would like to play somebody you don't know, that's the fun thing about scouting and the playoffs. Then to have that game in the first round, that's a big game in the first round. Typically you don't see those really tough matchups for both teams in the first round of the playoffs. Normally you see those matchups in the quarterfinals and semifinals."

Tough matchups? Ask Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly, whose Knights (8-1) drew a No. 5 seed in Class 5A. Provided Kaneland gets past 6-3 Hampshire with the No. 12 seed, the Knights have a potential second-round game against Joliet Catholic. The winner of that stands a good chance to play four-time defending 5A champ Montini. Sycamore, which ended Kaneland's 35-game winning streak two weeks ago, is a potential semifinal foe.

"Our north (bracket) is just stacked," said Fedderly, who already has film on Hampshire, having played DeKalb Week 2. "It's unbelievable, the amount of quality programs that are there. I think it's the hardest bracket in the whole state, all classes."

Late in the season playoff-bound teams usually try to get a handle on prospective opponents. Marmion (7-2) had 14 scouting crews surveying the state, coach Dan Thorpe said. No. 12 seed Fenton (6-3) was among them, though not foremost.

"It's a surprise," said Thorpe, whose No. 5 Cadets will host the Bison. "We crunched the numbers ourselves. We thought Prairie Ridge, but number one, we're excited to be in the playoffs and, number two, we want to be 1-0 come Friday night."

Thorpe said his brain trust was "mentally prepared" for Prairie Ridge, a prospective second-round foe.

"After sitting out of the playoffs last year we're thankful we're in the playoffs, we'll play another week."

Playing another week for another year is Aurora Central Catholic (6-3), seeded No. 10 in Class 4A and visiting No. 7 King (7-2). This was indeed a surprise for Casey, whose staff scouted Rockford Lutheran, Plano, Stillman Valley and Geneseo.

This is ACC's first consecutive playoff season since 1996-97. The Chargers lost to first-round foe St. Joseph-Ogden last season.

"I think it'll be fun for our kids," Casey said. "They certainly are excited about the opportunity to be in the playoffs again, and now we have to have a great week of practice, a great week of focus, a great week of preparation, and I think our next step is to win a playoff game."

Geneva is back in after seeing its eight-season playoff run ended last year. In 7A, the No. 7 Vikings (7-2) have an intriguing matchup, hosting No. 10 St. Patrick (6-3) out of the East Suburban Catholic Conference. Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said he almost took that long playoff run for granted. Not now.

"I forgot how cool it is to be in this stuff," said Wicinski, who has never faced St. Pat's. "We took a year off here and it's almost like our first time in the playoffs. We established some traditions in the program tied to the playoffs and when we didn't do it, it was very, very strange. So we're renewing those traditions."

St. Charles East, after six Class 7A playoff appearances since 2005, is making its second straight appearance but its first in 8A since 2001. The opposite of Batavia, No. 11 seed St. Charles East (6-3) ties Oswego with the lowest enrollment in the largest class, at 2,459 students. The Saints will travel to No. 6 Stevenson (7-2).

Coach Mike Fields suspected he'd go to 8A but had no idea who he'd be facing.

"We're away from the Napervilles, so we're very happy about that," he said. "Be careful what you wish for, though. Stevenson will be -- holy cow -- they're big. We respect all of our opponents. We're just glad to be in and excited to be in and the kids have earned it. But to be the best you've got to play the best and we're excited about the challenge."

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