Batavia -- A homegrown bunch of brothers who get to play one more week
The trust level between Batavia football players is off the charts.
Same goes for the trust factor between the Bulldogs and their coaches.
Perhaps that's why there was no grumbling or barking on the Batavia sideline when Benet Academy jumped to a 13-0 first-quarter lead in Saturday's Class 7A semifinal at Benedictine University in Lisle.
"We're OK. We're fine. We've got this," Batavia coordinator Matt Holm assured his defense on the bench moments after the Redwings scored their second touchdown.
Holm was right. The Bulldogs were OK. They were fine. They did have this.
Just like the previous week when they fell behind 10-0 at Lincoln-Way West only to win 20-10, they didn't allow another point in a 23-13 victory that sealed a berth in next Saturday's Class 7A state championship game at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb at 4 p.m.
Batavia linebacker Michael Jansey gave a tangible reason why the defense got better as the game unfolded.
"Initially, they were running outside with their quarterback, but then we switched up our format," Jansey said. "We moved our middle linebackers outside and it was good. Everything worked out."
Jansey -- a junior who made a clutch fourth-down tackle in the fourth quarter that led to Jack Carlson's 35-yard field goal -- also supplied an intangible reason for the win.
"We're all just brothers and we love each other and we're just pumped to go to state," he said, grinning ear-to-ear.
No. 4 Batavia (12-1) will face No. 3 Lake Zurich (13-0) for the state title, largely because the Batavia brotherhood Jansey spoke of demanded one more week together.
Most football teams that advance to a state final can point to great chemistry and camaraderie among players, but there's something unique about Batavia in general and this Batavia team in particular.
Unlike private schools like Benet Academy that draw players from a 30-mile radius, Batavia's Dennis Piron coaches the kids who live in his town. And it is his town. He's a 1983 Batavia graduate. Likewise, Holm graduated from Batavia in 1987. Most of the coaching staff is homegrown.
Unlike Wheaton, Crystal Lake, Aurora, Plainfield, Oswego, Naperville, St. Charles or Elgin where the rooting interest is split between multiple high schools, Batavia is a one-school town. If you move to the Windmill City and your kindergartner likes football, buy him a crimson and gold jersey because those are the colors he'll wear someday at the high school level.
Such future certainty means devotion to Batavia football starts early. Bonds are formed through pee-wee football and the middle school years, forging friendships that last lifetimes. Such bonds don't break easily.
So, when Batavia players eventually reach a crucial high school game and fall behind 13-0, no one grumbles or barks because they realize they're all pulling in the same direction. Just like they have been their whole lives.
"I don't get to pick and choose my players," Piron said. "So, my hope is some little boy in first and second grade starts to believe he's going to be a Bulldog one day. And then they start to think and dream about it.
"That's what all these kids are. They went to our grade schools. They met in kindergarten, they met in preschool, they met in first, second, third grade. They're neighborhood kids. They've all been in our town forever. No one's moving in. No one's being recruited.
"It's just Batavia boys. And these Batavia boys are awfully special."