Wild OT finish favors Batavia
Batavia's football team benefitted from the IHSA's no 10-second runoff rule in the final seconds of a game. And in the end, the Bulldogs sprinted off Libertyville's field with a stunning victory.
Andrew Heinz's 20-yard field goal in the third overtime lifted Batavia to a 34-31 win over the Wildcats in a nonconference battle between perennial powers.
"Crazy game," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "Crazy game."
Libertyville (1-1) appeared to have won the game, 17-14, when Ben Arnold picked off quarterback Riley Cooper on the goal line with no time left on the clock. But Batavia, which was out of timeouts, was whistled for offsides just before the snap. The referees put 1.5 seconds on the clock, and Piron set out Heinz, who kicked a 25-yard field goal to send the game to OT.
"I've always thought there were some plays -- and that's one of them -- that benefit the offense a little too much," Piron said. "So maybe that's something they should change.
"But not this year," he added, laughing.
In overtime, Batavia (2-0) got touchdown passes from Cooper to Thomas Stuttle (5 yards, first OT) and Dana Anderson (5 yards, second OT). Libertyville got TD runs from QB Jack Ruskell (1 yard) and running back Jason Tse (7 yards, 136 rushing yards for the game), but the Wildcats had a 21-yard field-goal try blocked in the third overtime.
"We were all thinking that we had that (win) at the end (of regulation)," said Ruskell, who completed 10 of 16 passes for 193 yards, despite losing wide receiver Brandon Rule to an apparent knee injury in the first quarter.
Down 7-3 at halftime, Libertyville faced a third-and-19 from its own 23 on the opening series of the third quarter. But Ruskell hit Brendan Bazar for a 56-yard gain. The 5-foot-9 Bazar leapt high to grab the ball at midfield and then raced to the Batavia 21. Three plays later, Bazar scored from the 3.
"A lot of speed," Ruskell said of Bazar (3 catches, 117 yards). "He's the guy I trust running that wheel (route). I know if he's even, he's leaving. And I know he can go up and get the ball, too."
Tse's 5-yard touchdown run to end the third quarter had Libertyville up 17-7.
Batavia responded with a 13-play, 76-yard drive that Cooper capped with a 5-yard TD pass to Stuttle to cut the Bulldogs' deficit to 17-14. Again Ruskell connected with Bazar on third down, for a 26-yard reception, and Libertyville moved the ball to the Batavia 17. But Batavia's defense backed up the Wildcats, who turned the ball over on downs. Anderson and Conner Stejskal teamed up to drop Ruskell for a 4-yard loss on fourth down.
With 2:51 on the clock, Batavia took over at its own 35 and got to the Libertyville 8 to set up Heinz's clutch field goal.
"That's a very proud team," Piron said of Libertyville, which lost in the Class 7A state championship game last year. "But we're proud too."
Batavia had taken the opening kickoff and chewed up more than six minutes on the clock. Cooper's 7-yard slant to 6-foot-4 Colin Cheaney put the visitors on the board with 5:36 left. Cooper started at quarterback, but running-threat Ben Weerts also took snaps from behind center on the opening drive.
Libertyville cut its deficit to 7-3 on Matt Rudolphi's 21-yard field goal with 11:23 left in the opening half.
The Wildcats graduated a talented class that included two-time all-state QB Riley Lees, but they're determined to establish a new identity.
"We're smash-mouth," Ruskell said. "We're following (big linemen) Tyler (Jost) and 'Chaz' (Charlie Schmidt) on the O-line. They're leading us right now."