Batavia's Brandon Hartmann dives in for the Bulldogs' first touchdown against Glenbard South during Friday's game at Batavia.
Week 1 of the conference schedule is too early for must-win games, even if that's what it felt like for Glenbard South leaving Batavia with a 19-16 come-from-behind victory Friday night.
"To start out the conference season 0-1 would have been a tough thing to overcome, especially when you start out Batavia-Geneva," said Glenbard South coach Dan Starkey, whose Raiders host the defending Western Sun Conference champ Vikings next week.
Yet, 0-1 is just where the Raiders were headed after Batavia's smash-mouth second half had put the Bulldogs ahead 16-13 in the fourth quarter, and a 49-yard punt by Ben Allison pinned the Raiders at their own 17.
Senior quarterback Trace Wanless, who threw for 208 yards and ran for another 73 and 2 touchdowns, led Glenbard South on the game-winning drive. After a 75-yard touchdown pass to Connor Douglas was called back on a holding penalty, Wanless found Douglas again for a 48-yard gain, with 15 yards tacked on for a horse collar tackle that Batavia coaches didn't agree with.
John Hentges converted a 4th-and-1 at Batavia's 12-yard-line, setting up Douglas and a 6-yard sweep into the end zone with 1:27 remaining that gave Glenbard South (2-1, 1-0) a 19-16 lead.
"Defensively we struggled at times, but our kids never gave up and that's what we preach," Starkey said. "Luckily our offense bailed us out. We made some big plays. I'm excited for our kids to start out 1-0 with a big win at Batavia."
Behind offensive linemen Pat Martin, Sean Tews, Jeff Hartzell, Matt Mueller and Kyle Dee, the Bulldogs rushed for 191 yards and controlled the clock throughout the second half.
Batavia (1-2, 0-1) didn't even attempt a pass in the second half until forced to after the Raiders went ahead. Sophomore Noel Gaspari, who aggravated a pinched nerve injury in his throwing shoulder in the first quarter and attempted just 6 passes, was sacked on the final two plays by Brian Duffy and Austin Teitsma, respectively.
"Our D-line really stepped up for us," Duffey said. "It cleared up space for me to get to the quarterback. It felt great to come back to win."
Batavia marched 56 yards on 12 plays on the game's opening drive, which Emund Kabba kept alive by breaking two tackles to get a first down on a 4th-and-1 run. On the next play, Braden Hartmann blasted through the middle for an 8-yard score.
The Raiders quickly answered with the first of Wanless's two QB keepers, a 5-yarder for a 7-6 lead with 3:06 left in the first quarter.
Glenbard South had a couple chances to build the lead but two drives stalled inside the Batavia 20, one when cornerback Ben Fornek broke up a potential touchdown pass on fourth down.
Wanless found Douglas on a 35-yard completion and Nick Slezak for 16 more, setting up his own 4-yard touchdown keeper and a 13-6 halftime lead.
Batavia, who didn't have a first down in the first half after its opening drive, dominated the line of scrimmage in the second half. The Bulldogs opened with an 11-play, 68-yard march - all on the ground - capped by sophomore Danny Seiton's 3-yard score that tied the game at 13 with 6:40 left in the third quarter.
Fornek intercepted Wanless three plays later, and the Bulldogs again ran the ball down the field. This time they rushed the ball 12 straight times for 60 yards, and Mike Clopton's 18-yard field goal gave them a 16-13 lead with 10:27 left in the game.
Batavia got the ball back with a chance to run out the clock. The trio of Seiton (20 carries, 84 yards), Hartmann (15 carries, 74 yards) and Kabba (31 yards) moved the chains the entire second half but came up a yard short of a key first down at their own 30.
"A lot of years I would have gone for that 4th-and-1," Batavia coach Mike Gaspari said. "I thought about it but I thought our defense was playing really well at the time, I thought we would leave it in their hands."
Besides his offensive line, which Gaspari said has improved by leaps and bounds since a Week 1 loss to St. Charles North, holding Glenbard South and its talented skill position players to 19 points was a bright spot.
"They (the defense) have been solid all year," Gaspari said. "Against the skill we faced I'm very proud of the defense.
"You hope that you don't have too many moral victories, not that this was, I think they are genuinely are disappointed, and so are we as a staff. We felt it was a game we could have and possibly should have won. It was a great game for us and the young guys we are playing."