Looking back on special rivalry as Batavia-Geneva hits 100
The electric atmosphere inherent to Geneva-Batavia football games should crackle with more than the usual amperage when the rivals clash for the 100th time on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Let's revisit some highlights from the first 99 meetings ahead of the Vikings' historic visit to Bulldog Stadium.
Much of the following archival information comes courtesy of research shared by Batavia Library Director George Scheetz. He became the unofficial series historian in 2005, when he set out to find the missing scores from a listing this newspaper published that year.
Geneva leads 51-43-5 in a series that began on Saturday, Nov. 22, 1913. Batavia drew first blood that day with a 12-7 win 19 months after the Batavia West and Batavia East High School districts merged.
The schools did not play in 1914 or 1915. The 1915 season was cut short due to a diphtheria epidemic.
The rivalry was shelved again in 1918 due to the Spanish Flu epidemic, which killed an estimated 675,000 Americans, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Geneva, coached by Paul Harrison, notched that school's first victory -- 13-12 -- when the series resumed on Oct. 11, 1919.
Then came the 20-year tenure of Geneva coach Carl T. Nelson. He guided Geneva to a 10-5-2 record against Batavia between 1925-1944. The rivals did not play for three of those years (1934-36) because Batavia dropped football.
Fun fact: It was during that idle period that Batavia also dropped the nickname it had been using for a few years: Vikings. That's right. They were once the Batavia Vikings. "Yes, it's true," Scheetz assures.
Batavia did not adopt the nickname Bulldogs until the mid-1940s. Geneva, home to a large Scandinavian population, scooped up the Vikings moniker in 1942-43.
Of course, not every game has been a work of art. Geneva won the 1950 meeting 2-0. The 1958 contest, a 6-6 tie, was plagued by 12 fumbles, according to a report in the Batavia Herald.
Batavia is riding a seven-game series winning streak heading into meeting No. 100 and can match its longest series winning streak with a victory. However, that streak does not compare to what the Vikings achieved under IHSFCA Hall of Fame coach Jerry Auchstetter between 1967-1985, when Geneva won 19 straight against Batavia.
In fact, in those years Geneva became more focused on games against competitive Little Seven Conference opponents than it was on Batavia. And why not? The Bulldogs had five winning seasons over that span and they had never won a conference title or qualified for the playoffs.
"To be truthful, it wasn't that big a rivalry for us at that time," Auchstetter, 81, said this week. "Our biggest rival was Morris. Sycamore had some good teams and St. Charles was always a big game for us. Those were big games. The games with Batavia were big also, but if you're playing for a conference championship, that becomes the big game."
Batavia finally snapped Geneva's streak in 1986. It was the second season for future Hall of Fame coach Mike Gaspari. The Bulldogs had finished 0-9 in his inaugural campaign in 1985, including a 48-0 loss to the Vikings in which "Derek Swanson ran all over us," Gaspari reminisced this week.
Batavia was 1-7 heading into the Week 9 meeting against Geneva in 1986, but a team led by captain and MVP Matt Holm, now Batavia's defensive coordinator, defeated Geneva 13-6 to set off a Halloween night celebration.
"I just remember the kids coming over the fence and rushing the field after the game," said Gaspari, the quarterbacks coach at Aurora University the last four seasons. "Here we'd only won two games but you would have thought we won the state title."
Gaspari and Batavia took 17 of the next 23 series games through 2006. That run included a 20-17 quadruple-overtime victory in 2003.
The capper was a 28-0 win over the Vikings in a 2006 state semifinal in the most important game ever played between the rivals. It was Batavia's second victory of the season against Geneva, and it was intense.
"I've never had more pressure in coaching than that particular game," Gaspari said. "It's your archrival and you're playing for the opportunity to play in a state title game. That game will always bring back vivid memories for me. Our kids played extremely well."
The next four years belonged to the Vikings after coach Rob Wicinski and staff transformed the program into a state contender. Between 2007-10, Geneva forged a 41-7 overall record and defeated the Bulldogs by a combined score of 124-47.
The series has shifted back in Batavia's favor since 1983 Batavia graduate Dennis Piron succeeded Gaspari as coach in 2011. He owns a 7-0 against Geneva.
Piron played during the Auchstetter era of Geneva dominance. Perhaps that's why he and Holm take such joy in beating the Vikings now.
"They get all riled up," Batavia junior linebacker Quinn Urwiler said. "The Geneva speeches are pretty good."
"We don't want to lose to Geneva," Piron said last Friday after his top-ranked team improved to 5-0. "We want to beat them every single time that we play them and we're on a win streak against them right now. We want to keep the win streak going. We're really proud of that."
Geneva (0-5) enters Game 100 a prohibitive underdog. The Vikings have already been eliminated from the playoffs. This is their playoff game.
Can Geneva pull off the surprise?
"We play hard," Wicinski said. "We just have to eliminate some mistakes. There's potential there for good things to happen. Who knows what can happen? It comes down to turnovers. If Batavia takes care of its business, it's going to be fine.
"If they don't, being that this is that 100th rivalry game, it could be fun."