Batavia pulls out another thriller
Ryan Whitwell was upset with how he defended a Glenbard North two-point conversion just before the half of Batavia's thrilling win in a key DuKane Conference showdown in Batavia on Friday night.
The Batavia junior got a second chance.
Whitwell stopped Glenbard North running back Damarion Elliston's two-point try with two minutes remaining and the Bulldogs held off the upset-minded Panthers, 21-20, in a matchup of unbeatens.
"That (first) two-point conversion was all my fault," Whitwell said. "I didn't even read the tight end (David Petty) and he released and was wide open. So I was looking for the run block (on the second one) and I attacked it and made that tackle."
Glenbard North (4-1, 2-1) orchestrated the game's biggest drive of the game to close to within a single point. The Panthers used 11 plays, converting two huge first downs on passes from quarterback Justin Bland before Elliston scored on a 2-yard run.
"The effort was there and they kept battling, but we just weren't as efficient and effective as we should've been," Panthers coach Ryan Wilkens said. "The defense played fantastic."
The Panthers missed a PAT kick on their first touchdown and converted a two-point try on their second. Having seen his team do those two things weighed into Wilkens' decision to go for the go-ahead two-pointer.
"We put our big guys, our best players, in that package and went with it," Wilkens said. "If we're not going to get it, it's going to be with our best guys on the field."
The Bulldogs weren't surprised to see the Panthers go for the win.
"I knew there were going to go for two, that's who they are," Batavia senior linebacker Drew Bartels said. "They're a tough-nosed football team so I figured they were going to go for it. That's what you work for all summer. That's what it's all about right there."
Whitwell saw the lead blocker coming his way with Elliston right behind him.
"I went at him and drove my feet and luckily he didn't get in," he said. "It was really crazy at that point. That was our brothers versus their brothers and our brothers came out on top and it was awesome. It was a blast."
A pick-six that the Bulldogs surrendered late in the first half was peculiar and turned what appeared destined to be a 21-6 halftime game into a 21-14 game.
Batavia was facing a third-and-four on its own 14-yard line with under a minute left in the half and got burned by a Sam Palmer interception near the sideline.
Both teams were hurt by turnovers. The Bulldogs were bolstered by a 55-yard fumble return from Litwell and an interception and fumble recovery from Bartels.
His fumble recovery gave the Bulldogs prime field position and Jalen Buckley scored on a 5-yard run three plays later to lift Batavia to a 14-6 lead midway through the second quarter.
"We just couldn't do much offensively," Wilkens said. "We really couldn't. They pressured us all night. We couldn't run the ball. We weren't effective throwing the ball because we couldn't protect and then the turnovers, and that's how you lose football games."
The Bulldogs led 7-0 after one quarter on Ryan Boe's beautiful 23-yard pass to Eric Newberry in the corner of the end zone. The Panthers got their first touchdown on Bland's 15-yard strike to Petty early in the second quarter.
"It's all about overcoming adversity and how you handle it," Bartels said. "I think we did a good job. For every bad play we had one or two good plays and I think we always kept our heads high. We never got down."