Batavia tops Wheaton North in OT thriller
Batavia quarterback Riley Cooper had a hunch which play would work in overtime.
With his team trailing visiting Wheaton North by a field goal, Cooper got the play he wanted from the Batavia sideline -- an oustside-shoulder pass to 6-foot-3 senior wide receiver Eric Peterson -- and executed it perfectly to beat the Falcons 20-17 Saturday.
The unassuming 5-foot-11, 170-pound quarterback put the throw right where it needed to be, releasing the football before Peterson turned at the goal line to look for it.
"He's so confident," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said of his quarterback. "He said if we get to the 7 (yard line), please throw back shoulder. I go 'all right.' And we do and we win. That's what he wanted. He wanted that call and we gave it to him."
"That's a play that I've thrown 100 times," said Cooper, who completed 10 of 13 passes for 115 yards and 3 touchdowns. "We practice that in practice all week. I mean, we just executed. Eric made a great play on the ball."
Peterson absorbed a hit after the catch and held on for his second touchdown of the game to advance No 4 Batavia (10-1) to a Class 7A quarterfinal next week at No. 12 Lincoln-Way West (9-2).
"I just had to get the 8 (yards), turn around and execute," Peterson said. "And it worked. That was crazy. I love our guys and it was special to do that for them."
The game was tied 7-7 at halftime, but No. 13 Wheaton North (8-3) grabbed a 14-7 third-quarter lead by driving 96 yards in 4 plays. Senior running back Sam Singleton flipped the field when he burst free for 51 yards to the 16. Junior Antowon Tolbert scored on the next play when he got to the corner and raced up the right sideline.
Singleton finished with 180 yards on 25 carries. The Falcons gained 281 total yards, 221 via the rush.
"We were able to run the ball at them and we were trying to figure out where they were overloading the box," Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski said. "A couple of times they were shifting heavy to our motion and trying to take that away. We got a few runs on them to the weak side, but they're stout in the middle of the field."
Each team punted twice before the Bulldogs responded with a 13-play, 81-yard drive, which nearly stalled after Wheaton North senior Sean King's sack pushed Batavia back to the 20.
Facing fourth-and-13, Cooper connected with open wide receiver Tom Stuttle on the wheel play to bring the Bulldogs within a point with 2:30 left in regulation. Jack Carlson's extra point knotted the score at 14-14.
Wheaton North had possession first in overtime, but Batavia linebacker Luke Weerts made a play on third-and-goal at the 4 to force a field goal try. The Falcons handed the ball off to senior Jackson Gray for the first time all day. He rushed toward the line initially before pulling up as if to throw to 6-3 tight end Tyler Johnson. However, Weerts tackled Gray for a 4-yard loss.
"The middle of the field opened up and I ran in and made the hit," said Weerts, a 6-3 junior. "It was a fairy tale ending."
The Falcons settled for a 25-yard Trenton Hegraves field goal and a 17-14 lead. Cooper connected with Peterson for the game winner two plays later.
"They executed there in the overtime period better than we did and they came out with a victory," Wardynski said. "But I'm very proud of our senior group. It's a great group of kids. We're going to miss them. It was a big group. We had 40-plus kids in that senior class and I hurt for them. They felt like we could make a little run here and we ran into a team that was a strong team and a very good opponent."