Batavia, St. Charles East ready to battle for DuKane Conference lead
The Batavia football coaches have been keeping a close eye on St. Charles East for weeks.
That's because the Saints faced each of Batavia's last three opponents -- Glenbard North, Wheaton Warrenville South and Geneva -- a week earlier than the Bulldogs.
Coach Dennis Piron of Batavia (5-1, 4-0) likes what he has seen on film of St. Charles East (5-1, 3-1) heading into Friday's DuKane Conference showdown at Bulldog Stadium.
"It's been impressive week to week to watch as they find their identity on offense," Piron said of the Saints' switch from the triple option to a four-wide attack. "Their offensive line is the best I've seen on film this year. All across the front they are fundamentally sound. They are coached well for the schemes they are running and they do a great job once they get on you.
"They are getting better each week. They probably would have been an easier team to play in Week 2 than Week 7."
Piron believes his team is getting better, too. He said the Bulldogs should be at "full capacity" Friday now that some nagging ankle and shoulder injuries have healed.
Batavia has purposefully limited senior outside linebacker Quinn Urwiler's running back reps in recent weeks to save wear and tear ahead of the stretch run. That changes Friday. According to Piron, "You're going to see a big dose of Q this week and next and into the playoffs."
The Batavia coaches aren't alone in studying the next opponent. The St. Charles East staff has gotten an eyeful of the Bulldogs.
"Their film is impressive," Saints coach Bryce Farquhar said. "Their guys fly around to the ball and are really athletic and physical on both sides of the ball, which is what we expect of the Batavia program."
St. Charles East defeated Batavia 28-7 in 2016, when the Saints won the Upstate Eight River and made a Class 8A quarterfinal appearance. The Bulldogs have won the last two meetings by shutout. They prevailed 7-0 in 2017 and 21-0 last season when they won the DuKane Conference title.
"The last few years we've played Batavia really tight," Farquhar said. "The kids understand Batavia won conference last year, (St. Charles) North won the year before and we won it the year before that. It's been a Tri-Cities thing lately and the kids know the weeks of North and Batavia are going to determine the conference championship."
Big plays: A pair of Bartlett Hawks gave coach Matt Erlenbaugh a couple new experiences in last week's 63-7 win over West Chicago.
Earning the Hawks' postgame special teams player of the week honor, senior receiver Matt Young returned a kickoff all the way for a touchdown, the first time that had happened in Bartlett's two years under Erlenbaugh and his staff.
Senior defensive back Jakub Maniak returned not 1 but 2 interceptions for touchdowns, of 60 and 78 yards -- in the first quarter alone. The second interception came on a one-handed snag.
Games like this allow a coach to empty the bench. Erlenbaugh said every Hawk on the varsity roster played and maintained the game plan.
"We weren't really skipping a beat," the coach said.
Sticky wicket: West Aurora has found football life more difficult in the Southwest Prairie Conference. Blackhawks coach Nate Eimer retains his positive outlook.
"This is a whole different level of football," said the former Blackhawks tight end. "We've got to catch up to it, and we're just a couple plays from being 4-2."
Instead West Aurora is 2-4 overall and 0-2 in the Southwest Prairie's West division despite fielding star athletes such as the program record-setting passing combination of quarterback Will Tammaru and receiver Logan Mont, and ace linebacker Cam Van Vleet.
They were some of a very few returning starters from last season's 9-2 squad. Combining that with the departure from the Upstate Eight Conference into a league with three still-unbeaten teams -- Minooka, Oswego and Yorkville -- that's where 2-4 comes from.
In five seasons of Upstate Eight football West Aurora had never finished with less than a 4-5 record, even when pitted against the likes of Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley in 2014. The Blackhawks went 9-1 overall and 5-0 in the Valley division in 2016 and didn't finish less than tied for third place in any season.
Its five-year playoff run threatened, West Aurora looks to rally against 4-2 Plainfield North, Minooka and 4-2 Oswego East.
"We've got a chance to be competitive, and win one and go from there, then win another and go from there," Eimer said.
"We've just got to get to five."