Cooper's 3 TDs lift Batavia past Glenbard North
As good as Glenbard North has been year in and year out, Batavia's been just a little bit better in their head-to-head matchups -- and the Bulldogs were once again Friday night in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs.
Riley Cooper threw three touchdown passes and Batavia's defense was solid throughout a 21-7 victory on a windy and frigid night at Bulldog Stadium.
Batavia is now 4-0 against Glenbard North, two proud programs who will see much more of each other starting next year in the new DuKane Conference.
"I have no idea how or why," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said of the four straight wins in the series. "They had Justin Jackson and they were so doggone good. Those games we had were just wars against them. We just compete well. They are exciting football games."
Cooper provided much of the excitement Friday. He threw a 21-yard touchdown into a stiff wind to Eric Peterson to start the scoring in the first quarter.
Cooper's second strike went to tight end Collin Richter, a 35-yard play that put Batavia up 14-0 at halftime.
That's the way the score stayed until the first play of the fourth quarter when Cooper once again delivered into that wind, connecting with Jared Martin on a 31-yard score.
"It (the conditions) made it a little tough but when the stakes are so high and it could be your last game, you don't focus on that, you just worry about winning the game," said Cooper, whose team bounced back from their only loss of the season last week at St. Charles North, a game that decided the Upstate Eight River title.
"Obviously you don't want to lose that game but I think it helped our preparation this week. Our defense was outstanding too."
Cooper finished 12 of 19 passing for 171 yards and no turnovers while the Panthers completed just 4 of 15 with 2 interceptions on a difficult night to throw.
"He's such a tough kid and he's been through the wars this year," Piron said. "We've been in a lot of tough, close games. He moves well, he doesn't panic."
While Batavia (9-1) found the end zone twice in the first half, the Panthers managed just 3 first downs and 56 yards. Glenbard North came out stronger on the first drive of the second half, sparked by a fake punt deep in its own territory.
Lee Rady completed an 8-yard pass to Tyrik Henderson for another 4th-down conversion on the drive, one that lasted over seven minutes and reached Batavia's 25 before a big hit by Michael Niemiec on 3rd-and-1 and then an incomplete pass kept Batavia up by 14.
"When we march down the field and don't get any points it's for sure discouraging," Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens said. "We need to do more on the ground game and make more plays in the pass. We needed to score on that drive to make it 14-7."
After an Andrew Heinz sack, Piron called two timeouts late in the third quarter to force the Panthers to punt into the wind. A 14-yard punt gave Batavia great field position, and Cooper's third touchdown pass made it 21-0.
Jayleen Fitzpatrick, who rushed for 104 yards on 20 carries, capped a 95-yard Glenbard North drive with a 2-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-goal with 5:45 remaining. The Panthers got the ball back and were at Batavia's 20 trying to make it 21-14 when Quin Urwiler hit Rady as he was in his throwing motion, causing the ball to flutter and land in Tom Stuttle's hands.
Urwiler also deflected 2 passes while Stuttle had 2 interceptions for Batavia, who will play either Wheaton North (7-2) or Fenwick (6-3) in the second round.
"We knew we had to pack up the box a little," Stuttle said. "Once we stopped the run, got up a couple scores, we were able to open up our 'D' a little. We lost no energy after the (SCN) loss. We stayed with it and recovered really fast."
The Panthers finished 5-5.
"We had some ups and downs throughout the season," Wilkens said. "Every week our kids came back and fought. Their effort week in and week out was unquestionable."