East St. Louis races past Batavia
A slow start against one of the fastest teams in the state doomed host Batavia in a 31-17 loss to East St. Louis Saturday.
East St. Louis -- which opened the season tied for the top spot in the Class 5A rankings with Joliet Catholic -- scored 4 touchdowns in the game's first 12:07 to bolt to a 25-3 lead.
That great start was due, in part, to a talented roster that includes running back Demonta Witherspoon and quarterback Tyler Macon, among eight Flyers either committed to or offered by major college programs.
In the first half alone they helped the visitors amass 410 of their 571 total yards. Witherspoon rushed for 210 of his 238 yards and scored on a 49-yard touchdown before halftime. Macon threw for 137 of his 264 yards and 3 touchdowns and rushed for another, all prior to the intermission.
"We were just ready," Witherspoon said. "We just came out in the first half and knew what we had to do."
Batavia, the No. 2-ranked team in Class 7A, was limited to 121 first-half yards, 71 of which came courtesy of senior running back Quinn Urwiler. But Batavia had to scramble from a scheme perspective initially.
"We worked on a lot of man stuff and they came out in zone," 6-foot-6 tight end Drew Iutzwig said. "We really had to cross out a lot of stuff." The Bulldogs were also without bookend tight end Devin Cheaney, who missed the game due to illness.
After an adjustment period, the Bulldogs got back in the game. Urwiler scored on a 41-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 25-10 with 9:19 left in the second quarter.
Iutzwig later capped a 12-play, 58-yard drive with a 3-yard reception from quarterback Kyle Oroni to make it a 31-17 game with 4:14 left in the first half.
The Batavia defense came up with a big play on the final play of the half to deny the Flyers a touchdown. Witherspoon was about to score but was hit at the goal line by Urwiler and the ball went out of the end zone for a touchback.
The teams played a scoreless second half. East St. Louis had two touchdowns called back by penalty in addition to a negated first-half touchdown for the same reason. The Flyers were whistled for 14 penalties for 101 yards.
Batavia had second-half opportunities but could not cash in. Reilly Corken intercepted one of 3 passes tipped by Urwiler at his own 15-yard line, but the Bulldogs soon punted. Some offensive plays nearly clicked but just missed.
East St. Louis had a lot to do with that.
Batavia coach Dennis Piron said the Flyers and the 2018 Nazareth team that defeated Batavia in last year's semifinals "are two of the finest football teams I've ever coached against in three decades. I don't think that's an exaggeration. But I feel you'd better be able to step up against that because we have some pretty big goals ourselves and we have to get better. I think this team will get better Week 1 to Week 2 to Week 3."