Batavia tops St. Charles East in defensive battle
Batavia took a major step toward reclaiming the Upstate Eight River football crown by knocking off defending champion St. Charles East 7-0 at Bulldog Stadium Friday.
Batavia (5-0, 3-0) held St. Charles East (3-2, 1-2) to 116 total yards and notched its third shutout in five games to amend for last season's 28-7 loss to the Saints. That defeat snapped Batavia's 34-game conference winning streak and helped end its five-year reign atop the UEC River.
"Batavia's back," defensive end Mike Bautch said. "I feel like it was redemption for what happened last year. We're just going to keep at it and, hopefully, we'll win conference this year."
Batavia's success on defense was partly because the Bulldogs swarmed to the ball as a team and partly because the Saints were not at full strength.
Though St. Charles East quarterback Clayton Isbell gutted it out and played through the high-ankle sprain he suffered a week ago, he was largely ineffective. Playing with a noticeable limp, the senior option quarterback was held to negative-12 yards rushing in 4 attempts and completed 1 of 3 passes for 33 yards and an interception. Batavia also limited junior fullback Justin Jett to 71 yards on 14 carries.
"The linchpin of their offense wasn't 100 percent. It was obvious," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "That changes everything. When the quarterback really can't run and can't drop and be electric, it's a little bit tougher.
"That being said, I think the challenge that the kids took on was pretty awesome. But we've done that all year. People simply haven't been able to run the ball on us."
St. Charles East's defense played nearly as well, particularly in the red zone. Though the Saints allowed 296 total yards, they turned the Bulldogs away four times inside the 20. East's Patrick Griffin tackled Batavia quarterback Riley Cooper on fourth-and-goal at the 2 in the second quarter, Nick Garlisch intercepted a tipped pass at his own 3-yard line in the third quarter, Batavia's backup quarterback fumbled the exchange on fourth-and-goal at the 1 early in the fourth quarter and the Bulldogs missed a 21-yard field goal with three minutes left.
However, it wasn't enough for the Saints to avoid a second straight loss by a combined total of 8 points.
"We have to be a resilient team. We've got to bounce back right away," Saints senior middle linebacker Abe Swanson said. "These two games were close games, easily winnable. A few mental errors here or there, but we'll bounce back."
Swanson recovered the Batavia fumble at the 1-yard line and wreaked havoc throughout.
"Abe Swanson played one of the best defensive games I've ever seen," St. Charles East coach Bryce Farquhar said. "I think he's at an all-state caliber right now. I don't think there's any doubt in my mind."
The Saints' final drive entered Batavia territory, thanks to a 33-yard pass by Isbell to Ronan Macaluso. However, facing fourth-and-15 with 50 seconds left, Isbell rolled to his right and was sacked by Bautch, allowing the offense to kneel in victory formation.
The game's only touchdown was the result of a 15-play, 91-drive right before halftime. The Bulldogs converted on fourth-and-5 when quarterback Riley Cooper found tight end Collin Richter up the seam for a 25-yard reception.
Two plays later Cooper dumped a pass off to sophomore running back Art Taylor, who sprinted toward the pylon for a 15-yard score with 1:07 remaining in the second quarter.