Defense getting the job done as Batavia readies for quarterfinals
When your high school football team has won all 11 of its games this season -- 16 consecutive wins dating back to October of 2017 -- chances are good some big-time players are on the roster.
Batavia has its share of standouts, beginning with a pair of Division I recruits -- Northwestern-bound linebacker Michael Jansey and North Dakota State-bound linebacker Luke Weerts.
Weerts and Jansey collected 12 and 11 tackles, respectively, during the Bulldogs' 59-32 victory over Moline (9-2) in last Saturday's second round of the Class 7A state playoffs.
One more thing -- don't let that final score fool you.
Despite giving up a 94-yard TD pass to Moline on a halfback-option play early in the first quarter, Batavia played plenty of defense.
The Bulldogs built a commanding 52-13 lead before coach Dennis Piron emptied his bench early in the fourth quarter.
In addition to recording 6 sacks, Batavia's defense collected as astonishing 23 tackles for loss -- better than 1 in every 3 plays (35 percent).
As the Bulldogs prepare for Saturday's 7A quarterfinal clash with fellow unbeaten Willowbrook (11-0) at Bulldog Stadium, it is wise to keep an eye on two junior standouts -- Sam Barus and Quinn Urwiler.
Listed as a 6-foot-1, 160-pound defensive back, Barus led the Bulldogs last weekend with 5 tackles for loss -- half of his 10 total tackles -- and a sack.
In 11 games, Barus leads the team in tackles (87) while also collecting 11 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 2 hurries, an interception and a fumble recovery.
"He's a flat-out stud," Piron said of Barus, who also returns punts. "He's a great tackler.
"If I could compare him to an animal, it would be like a mountain lion. He's got it locked in when he's going after people. He flies around and he never quits."
Barus relishes the opportunity for a prolonged postseason run.
"Our motto is one more week," he said. "We want to come in on Monday and know that we're guaranteed another week of practice. I just want to keep on winning."
Winning becomes a little easier with guys like Barus around.
"He's a great athlete," said the coach. "He could be a running back or receiver as well. We have players and they play together."
Urwiler was literally all over the field against Moline.
In addition to his game-high 13 tackles, including 2 ½ tackles for loss, a forced fumble and fumble recovery, Urwiler rushed for 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just 7 carries and also served as the long snapper on extra-point attempts.
"He's one of the best football players in the state of Illinois," said Piron. "The kid is an unbelievable athlete and an unbelievable warrior. If he's not making huge plays on defense, you hand him the ball on offense.
"He could probably be your 40-carries-per-game tailback. He does special things when you give him a chance. He's a natural running back who follows blocks like nobody's business and runs through tacklers. He's very, very hard to bring down."
A throwback-type player, the 5-10, 180-pound Urwiler plays like his hair is on fire.
As the Bulldogs continue their playoff journey, Piron may find it tougher to keep Urwiler off the field.
"As the games are closer, it'll get harder," admitted the coach. "Right now, things are working. We'll play guys two ways if we have to but we would prefer not to because the teams are just too good."
Saints Downers Grove North's volleyball team proved to be too much to handle for St. Charles East during Friday's Class 4A supersectional in Bartlett.
Despite owning a pair of victories over the Trojans during a 6-day period in mid-October, the Saints couldn't pull off a third consecutive win over Downers Grove North (29-11).
"I always hate that," Saints coach Jennie Kull said of facing the Trojans for a third time this season. "It's hard to beat a team three times. (Before the match), I told the girls this is a different team than the one we played two times -- and they were."
The fact the Saints (24-15) advanced to the supersectional was quite an accomplishment in itself.
"I can tell you I didn't think we'd be here," said Kull, who has guided the Saints to 17 regional titles, 9 sectional crowns, 5 state tournament appearances and 2 state championships (2001, 2008) in 22 years at the helm.
"After 14 losses, you're thinking, 'oh, my goodness,' and they went above and beyond what needed to happen to make it here. I couldn't be prouder of this group of kids."
The group included 4 seniors -- Clemson-bound setter McKenna Slavik, UW Green Bay-bound setter Calli Gentry, middle hitter Kirsten Rogers and outside hitter Sam Urban.
"McKenna (Slavik) taught our kids so much," said Kull. "She's a role model and she's going to do great things (in college)."
"It was a really fun season and something to be proud of," said Slavik.
You an reach Craig Brueske at firstname.lastname@example.org