Batavia comes from behind to dump Lincoln-Way West
Little went right for Batavia at the start of Saturday's Class 7A quarterfinal against Lincoln-Way West in New Lenox.
The Bulldogs could do no wrong once they settled in.
No. 4 Batavia spotted the 12th-seeded Warriors a 10-point, first-quarter lead but roared back for a 20-10 victory by winning the turnover battle 8-1.
Senior cornerbacks John Golden and Tom Stuttle each grabbed 3 interceptions and Batavia's defense forced turnovers on 7 of 8 Lincoln-Way West second-half possessions, including the last five.
"Tommy's a special football player," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "That dude's an All-State football player if there ever was one. And the Golden kid, he wasn't even a guy who played for us last year. Where he's come to and where he's at on our team, sensational."
Batavia (11-1) advances to a state semifinal for the third time since 2011. The Bulldogs will play at No. 17 Benet Academy (9-3), which won 14-10 at Lincoln-Way Central.
"One more week is our saying," said Stuttle, who has 11 interceptions. "Just to keep getting that one more week, going to the semifinals, trying to get to state -- it's awesome. It's what we were dreaming of before the season started."
Lincoln-Way West (9-3) put the Bulldogs on their heels at the start. Sophomore running back Caleb Marconi's 76-yard burst up the middle on the game's second play staked his team to the lead with 24 seconds elapsed. Brock Krohe's 32-yard field goal made it 10-0 with 6:12 left in the first quarter.
The momentum swung right before halftime. The Batavia offense -- which to that point had punted three times and twice turned the ball over on downs -- came to life. Quarterback Riley Cooper used the time allotted by his offensive line to find Eric Peterson for a 59-yard touchdown. The senior receiver initially ran a dig route but cut across the field when he saw Cooper looking for a receiver. He beat a defender to the sideline and raced an additional 40 yards to the end zone.
"I saw Cooper scrambling to the left so I just cut back, he led me and I got a block from (tight end Collin) Richter," Peterson said. "That was big. A lot of guys started getting pumped up and the defense got fired up. From there on I thought we were good."
Batavia capitalized on third-quarter fumbles recovered by senior nose guard Max McFadden and sophomore linebacker Quinn Urwiler.
Following McFadden's recovery, Cooper connected with Stuttle for a 32-yard touchdown on third-and-6, giving the Bulldogs a 14-10 lead.
After Urwiler's recovery, the two-way player rushed for 31 yards on the next play to set up first-and-goal. One play later Cooper connected with Peterson on A 7-yard throw to make it a 20-10 lead with 1:34 left in the third quarter. The extra point was blocked.
Batavia was limited to 97 yards rushing and the Warriors outgained them 315 total yards to 267, but Lincoln-Way West's 8 turnovers superseded other stats.
The Batavia defense held Marconi in check after his 76-yard touchdown. He gained 41 yards on 12 carries the rest of the game.
"They started playing their safeties tighter to the ball and their linebackers and safeties are excellent run defenders," Warriors coach Dave Ernst said. "Now, we're looking at eight, nine in the box all the time and we really had a hard time running. Then we couldn't complete our passes and had issues there. We just couldn't get anything going again."
In their postgame huddle the Batavia players celebrated another week of playoff football by chanting their aforementioned motto: "One more week, one more week."
"It's crazy. This is crazy. Crazy that we're in this game this week," Piron said of the semifinal. "I'm really proud of these kids. I'm happy for them. So happy for them."