St. Charles North won its first conference title in 13 years by solving the riddle of Batavia's previously immovable defense in Friday's 35-28 home victory.
In a showdown to decide the Upstate Eight Conference River Division title, St. Charles North (8-1, 6-0) scored 35 total points -- 28 by its offense -- to knock off the Bulldogs.
Batavia (8-1, 5-1) in eight previous outings had allowed a total of 31 points.
The conference title is North's first since it shared an Upstate Eight title with Neuqua Valley in 2004.
"If we all go out with the same mindset, that we're not coming off this field without a victory, then nobody is going to stop us and the kids proved that today," St. Charles North coach Rob Pomazak said. "I'm so proud of them. I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am for these guys."
The North Stars did it by working the edges of the field. They ran to the outside and threw passes to the outside edge. The scheme worked. Batavia, which had previously allowed 298 rushing yards all season, allowed 86 rushing yards to North quarterback Michael Hohensee and 48 to running back Lucas Segobiano.
Meanwhile, Hohensee completed 18 of 27 attempts for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns. North outgained Batavia 345 total yards to 277 and won the turnover battle 2-1.
"They were effective because they decided to run to the outside," Batavia junior linebacker Michael Jansey said. "Our goal going into this game was shut the pass down and we didn't do a very good job on that. But they got to the outside."
St. Charles North trailed 14-7 in the second quarter before storming ahead. Segobiano scored on a 5-yard run to cap a 10-play, 80-yard drive, knotting the score 14-14 with 3:19 left in the second quarter.
Two plays later North sophomore safety Ryan Thiesse picked off a pass to the outside by Batavia quarterback Riley Cooper and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown to stake the North Stars to a 21-14 lead with 2:30 left in the half.
"I've been playing football all my life," Thiesse said. "The motion outward is a giveaway that it's going to be an out route. I just read the play, I reacted and I made the play."
"It was not a good play call by us," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "It was stupid. Some things we thought we saw, obviously, they feel comfortable having a guy fly up from safety on that play. We thought it would be wide open. Wasn't. So we put our quarterback in a bad situation there."
Batavia got right back in the game with a 75-yard, 10-play touchdown drive on the opening possession of the third quarter. On fourth-and-16, Cooper connected with Tom Stuttle in stride down the left sideline and Jack Carlson's extra point tied the game at 21-21.
The North Stars responded with the next 2 touchdowns. First, Hohensee threw a high, 32-yard fade to junior Alec Kritta for the go-ahead score on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Following a short Batavia punt, the North Stars moved 42 yards in 10 plays, culminating in Segobiano's 2-yard run.
The Bulldogs answered with a 62-yard touchdown march. They pulled within 7 points on Jared Martin's 2-yard run with 3:38 left.
Batavia wouldn't get another crack. Hohensee converted long third down with a 41-yard pass to Tommy Nelsen. Later in the drive, facing fourth-and-9 at the Batavia 31 yard-line, Hohensee connected with Tyler Nubin for 10 yards and a first down with 1:31 to play that allowed the North Stars to run out the clock.
"They had some very, very gutsy calls that they made at certain downs and distances to take shots and it paid off for them with big catches and big plays," Piron said. "It really did come right down to the wire. I thought we had a good chance to stop them there."
"It's awesome," Hohensee said of winning the UEC River title. "It's the next 24-hour rule -- we're going to celebrate. And then it's time for playoffs. It's time to focus."