Batavia edges Willowbrook in back-and-forth OT thriller
Falling behind for the first time during Saturday's Class 7A state football quarterfinal game against Willowbrook with less than a minute remaining, Batavia's season was on the line.
Driving from their own 20 to the Warriors' 7-yard line in 8 frenetic plays, the Bulldogs (12-0) tied it at 27-27 with 10 seconds left in regulation on Jackson Williams' clutch 24-yard field goal.
From there, senior Michael Jansey rumbled 10 yards for the go-ahead touchdown on the first play of overtime, and the Bulldogs' defense forced a sack and 3 straight incomplete passes during their thrilling 34-27 postseason victory.
"I don't know what happened there but our sideline was never nervous," said Jansey, whose team led 24-7 with 7:54 remaining before Willowbrook stunned the Bulldogs by scoring 3 touchdowns in a 5-minute, 46-second span.
"We did this last year -- we won in overtime (beating Lake Zurich 21-14 in the 7A state title game)," said Jansey. "We did this earlier in the season against St. Charles North (27-24 win on Oct. 12) so all of our seniors already know the feeling of this."
With their 17th consecutive victory, the Bulldogs advance to next weekend's semifinal clash against Nazareth (11-1) in LaGrange Park.
"We're in the semis," said Batavia coach Dennis Piron, whose team advanced to the state semifinals for the fourth time since 2011. "What our coaches and kids have been doing here with football is such an amazing thing to be a part of as a coach."
For nearly 3 ½ quarters, the Bulldogs controlled the game, taking a 24-7 lead on a 4-yard touchdown run by Quinn Urwiler (21 carries, 101 yards).
However, the previously unbeaten Warriors (11-1) mounted a serious comeback.
Junior quarterback Sam Tumilty (25 of 42, 350 yards) connected with senior receiver Scott Tumilty (7 catches, 115 yards) for 3 touchdown passes -- covering 27, 32 and 34 yards -- the latter coming with 59 seconds remaining.
"Scotty Tumilty is the toughest football player in the state of Illinois," said Willowbrook coach Nick Hildreth. "He's the best playmaker I've ever been around. When we needed a big play to be made, it was him guaranteed -- so it wasn't surprising.
"It's just unfortunate that I don't get to coach him again next week."
Trailing by 3, the Bulldogs began their tying drive at their own 20.
Following a 15-yard pass play from quarterback Jack Meyers (15 of 26, 199 yards) to Trey Urwiler and a roughing the quarterback penalty, Batavia marched to midfield with 49 seconds left.
After the last of Batavia's 8 second-half penalties moved the ball back to the Bulldogs' 45, Meyers hit Ethan Neibch (6 catches, 78 yards) for 14 yards before connecting with Zack Weber on a 28-yard strike to the Warriors' 13 to set up Williams' game-tying field goal.
"We've been fairly resilient like that," said Piron. "These kids have been doing this for a while. They're calm under pressure."
Piron liked his team's chances in the extra session.
"We felt good about our power offense in overtime," said the coach.
Batavia's defense rose to the occasion in overtime, fueled by Ethan Towers' 1st-down sack and 5-yard loss and Jansey's 3rd-down pressure that led to an intentional grounding penalty.
Sophomore cornerback Evan Kopf broke up Sam Tumilty's 4th-and-33 pass attempt to Everett Stubblefield to end the game.
"We didn't execute in some spots and you can't afford to do that against a program like this," said Hildreth, whose team suffered its third straight quarterfinal defeat.
"It takes that much more to get over that hump and past this point. From top to bottom, 7A is the best football in the state of Illinois. You can't make some of the mistakes that we did and win at this level."