It is fast becoming a habit.
For the sixth time in 8 years, an area football team has played for all the marbles on state championship weekend.
This season, Batavia made the short trip to DeKalb to face Richards in the Class 6A title game on Nov. 30
For the third consecutive season, a local team emerged victorious as the Bulldogs captured their first-ever state football title -- and their first state championship of any kind since the boys' basketball team claimed the crown in 1912 -- with a convincing 34-14 triumph to cap a spectacular 13-1 campaign.
Aurora Christian won back-to-back Class 3A state championships in 2011 and 2012.
Since 2006 when Batavia reached the 6A finals, 7 different teams have played in the title game, including Geneva (7A, 2008), Aurora Christian (4A, 2008), and Marmion (6A, 2010).
It's a habit that I'm hoping continues over the next 8 years.
Here's one last look back at the 2013 football season:
Top regular-season games
Elk Grove 23, St. Charles North 22, OT
Trailing 16-0 after 3 quarters, the North Stars made a furious fourth-quarter comeback in Week 1 as quarterback Erik Miller scored on a 7-yard run and then connected with Garrett Johnson for a 32-yard TD pass. Tailback Evan Kurtz added a pair of 2-point conversion runs to help the North Stars force overtime. Elk Grove spoiled the debut of North Stars head coach Rob Pomazak, who was the Grenadiers' defensive coordinator 1 year earlier.
St. Charles East 28, St. Charles North 21, OT
Really, I'm not picking on the North Stars but they played in another instant classic during Week 3.
Trailing 21-13 after Kurtz raced 76 yards for a TD with 8:09 remaining in the fourth quarter, Saints quarterback Jimmy Mitchell tossed a 34-yard TD pass to Erik Anderson and found Mitch Munroe for the game-tying 2-point pass to force overtime.
In overtime, Brannon Barry's 10-yard TD run proved to be the game-winner as the Saints defeated the North Stars for the sixth consecutive time.
Top playoff games
Batavia 19, Lake Forest 14
Limited to a season-low scoring output, the Bulldogs' defense held on in the final minutes during their state quarterfinal victory at wind-swept, rain-soaked Bulldog Stadium on Nov. 16.
Lake Forest took over the ball near midfield with 2:57 remaining. Three incompletions and a 5-yard loss later, the Bulldogs regained possession and ran out the final minute thanks to senior tailback Anthony Scaccia's 136 yards on 32 carries.
Stillman Valley 28, Aurora Christian 26
When junior quarterback Austin Bray hit Legend Smith with a 10-yard TD pass to give Aurora Christian a 26-21 lead with 2:27 left, it appeared the Eagles were on the way to their third straight 3A state title game.
However, fullback Zac Hare's 3-yard TD run with 12.9 seconds remaining capped an 11-play, 59-yard drive to give eventual state champion Stillman Valley the improbable semifinal victory.
Players make plays
In Week 7, Batavia defensive back Michael Moffatt ripped the ball from a St. Charles North receiver and raced 91 yards down the sideline for a touchdown with 8.8 seconds left in the second quarter to extend the Bulldogs' halftime lead to 25-0. Batavia went on to win, 44-7.
Best play call -- Part 1
Facing a 3rd-and-8 from its own 4 in the second quarter of the 6A state championship game against Richards, Batavia offensive coordinator Mike Gaspari's gamble paid off.
Throwing from his own end zone, quarterback Micah Coffey fired a perfect strike to Moffatt. The record-breaking, 96-yard TD pass helped extend the Bulldogs' lead to 14-0.
Best play call -- II
St. Charles East offensive coordinator Shaun Ratay called for wide receiver Brannon Barry to run the ball on 2nd-and-10 in overtime against St. Charles North on Sept. 13. Barry took the handoff from Jimmy Mitchell and ran untouched into the end zone for the game-winning score in the Saints' 28-21 victory. It was Barry's first carry of his career.
Geneva coach Rob Wicinski after his team survived 4 turnovers and 12 penalties for 120 yards during its 41-34 Week 4 victory over Larkin -- "We've got issues."
Held to 32 first-half passing yards on 3 of 12 accuracy, St. Charles East quarterback Jimmy Mitchell found the magic touch in the second half, completing 15 of 16 for 241 yards and 3 TDs during the Saints' 41-26 come-from-behind triumph over Jacobs in Week 2.
I won't soon forget the opening Friday night of the football season when severe thunderstorms and torrential rain forced the postponement of several local games, including DuSable-Aurora Christian, Geneva-Oswego, St. Charles North-Elk Grove, Glenbard North-Batavia, Brooks-Kaneland, and Plainfield Central-Marmion.
A record-breaking 7 area teams -- Aurora Central Catholic, Aurora Christian, Batavia, Geneva, Kaneland, Marmion, and St. Charles East all qualified for postseason play.
St. Charles North nearly made it 8 but the North Stars were 1 of just 10 teams to miss a playoff bid with a 5-4 record.
Keeping it in perspective
St. Charles East's football team rallied around a cause all season long.
After the death of senior Mitch Munroe's father, Scott, this past summer, the Saints rallied around Mitch and the Munroe family. Sporting "Score for Scott" T-shirts, Saints players, coaches, faculty, cheerleaders, students and parents showed their admiration for Scott Munroe and raised money for cancer research.
The IHSA honored Batavia quarterback Micah Coffey as part of its Do What's Right! Sportsmanship Program for his good deed during the 6A championship game.
Coffey tended to an official with a medical emergency in the second half after the referee suddenly stopped play and bent over. He left the line of scrimmage and ran immediately to the referee's side until the arrival of medical personnel from the sidelines.
The senior 3-sport athlete received a plaque from the IHSA for his sportsmanship prior to last Friday's basketball game against Geneva. He also received a generous round of applause -- something that Coffey is used to hearing -- but this time for something bigger than sports.
Well done, Micah.
They'll be back
The list of returning players in 2014 includes Aurora Central Catholic's Mikey Malawski and Hunter Fiorito; Aurora Christian's Austin Bray and Trevor Hills; Batavia's Noah Frazier, Jack Breshears, Jake Hlava, Josh Leonhard and Patrick Gamble; Geneva's Daniel Santacaterina, Mike Landi, Max Woodworth, Pace Temple, Matthew Loberg and Stephen Kemp; Kaneland's Connor Fedderly, Andrew Kray and Isaac Swithers; Marmion's Jordan Glasgow, Luke Juriga, Tim Clohecy and Lucas Warren; St. Charles East's Mo Flanigan, Brennan Bosch and Ramon Lopez; St. Charles North's Nick Edlund, Dom Sidari, Jordan Bergren and Carson Schmitt; and West Aurora's Drake Spears and DaQuan Cross.
Raising the bar
Batavia's 6A state championship run -- the first by ever by a Tri-Cities team -- should raise the bar high for all of our area squads.
Winning a state title has always been the ultimate goal for all coaches but Batavia showed how to do it with the right mix of talent, dedication, coaching … and a little bit of good fortune along the way.
You can reach Craig Brueske at firstname.lastname@example.org
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