Gerke sparks Batavia in win over Glenbard North
Batavia has been waiting to unleash Drew Gerke.
After suffering a broken hand just before the Bulldogs' season opener, Gerke, primarily a wide receiver, has been limited and forced to primarily play defense with a cast on his right hand.
Friday night at Glenbard North, the Bulldogs let Gerke loose. The 5-foot-11 senior hauled in three touchdowns to lead Batavia to a decisive 35-6 victory in DuKane Conference play.
While Gerke hopes to be medically cleared to get his cast removed in the near future, Batavia coach Dennis Piron felt comfortable enough to give him a shot Friday night.
"We told Drew, 'Just go out there and see what you can do. If you drop it, you drop it, but there's no one quite like you in the league'," Piron said. "There truly isn't. He's been working all week on catching the ball and with his combination of talent and speed, it really opens everything else up for our offense. It really changes our whole team."
Gerke made an immediate impact as he beat a Glenbard North defender on Batavia's third play from scrimmage for a 43-yard touchdown. He followed that score up with touchdown catches over the top of the Panthers defense of 41 and 60 yards all in the first half.
He finished the night with those 144 yards and three touchdowns -- his only three targets of the night.
"It's definitely a challenge, but I wanted to try and do whatever I could," Gerke said of catching with his cast. "I think getting those early scores were huge because when we get momentum, I don't think anyone can stop us."
Gerke's third touchdown put the Bulldogs (3-2, 2-1 DuKane Conference) ahead 20-0 with 4:21 remaining in the first quarter.
That fast offensive output, combined with the size and speed of the Batavia defense, made it an uphill battle from the start for Glenbard North (2-3, 1-2).
"[Batavia] just does a great job," Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens said. "To prepare for Batavia is different from just about anyone else. They run the ball out of so many different formations, they can pass the ball effectively and they can run it well. It just makes for an extremely difficult preparation and that's credit to them."
Batavia quarterback Ryan Boe finished the night completing 9-of-15 passes for 195 yards and those three touchdowns to Gerke, while Ryan Whitwell (83 yards, 2TD), Zach Granberg (77 yards) and Charlie Whelpley (56 yards) paced a balanced rushing attack for the Bulldogs.
Panthers quarterback Justin Bland (186 passing yards) found Zamari Robinson for a touchdown just before the end of the third quarter to get Glenbard North on the board.
But most of the night was tough sledding for Bland and his offense, thanks in large part to a physical defense led by senior linebacker Tyler Jansey.
"To be able to ball out like [Drew Gerke] did tonight was just such an early boost for us," said Jansey, who had one of Batavia's four sacks on the night. "Momentum is so huge on both sides of the ball. Glenbard North is a big team and for us to be able to get out to an early lead and ride the momentum of that on the defensive end was all we needed tonight."
Joey Barbush also contributed an interception for the Bulldogs defense that led to one of Whitwell's two scores on the ground in the victory.