Batavia's ground game too much for Lake Zurich in 7A semifinals
Tyler Jansey and Batavia made a strong run the Champaign.
Jansey rushed for 165 yards on 18 carries and scored a touchdown to power the Bulldogs past Lake Zurich 24-7 Saturday in the Class 7A semifinals in Lake Zurich.
Batavia will be making the first appearance in the state title game since 2017 when they won the championship.
The Bulldogs (10-3) will meet top-seeded Mt. Carmel in the title game on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois. My. Carmel advanced by beating St. Rita 20-9, and they also knocked Batavia out of last year's playoffs in the second round, 16-14 in a controversial finish.
Jansey was just one of five Batavia running backs who had their way against Lake Zurich on a cold and blustery evening.
"Going to state is something I have always dreamed about," Jansey said. "It is the ultimate prize in high school."
Batavia coach Dennis Piron said that his team played a solid game.
"There are a lot of heroes here," Piron said. "We are excited to be headed back to the championship game."
It was a dominant performance by Batavia on both sides of the ball.
The Bulldog offense ran 64 plays for 462 yards, eating up the clock. Running behind the interior line of Jimmy Zitkus, Jack David, Frankie Porcaro, Nick Ruiz and Jonathan Brown, the Bulldogs piled up 426 rushing yards.
"I think it was our best game this season," said Zitkus, who is the only senior on the offensive line.
"We fired out and just drove them back. Especially in the second half. We just ran it down the middle and drove the ball and wasted the clock. I love that game."
Meanwhile the defense was superb as well. They held Lake Zurich to 116 yards, with 82 of those yards coming in one play.
The Bears ran just 27 plays. They had three possessions in the second half and went three-and-out on each possession and gained only four total yards.
That defense, led by Jansey, J.P. Chaney, Jack Sadowsky, Jordan Buckley, Quinn Ahrens, Drew Gerke and Ben Fiegel, held Lake Zurich to two first downs while posting three sacks.
"We have come so far," Chaney said. "We were challenged at the start of the year. We knew we had to step up."
Lake Zurich (11-2), which had advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 2017, had its offense rolling early.
On their second possession, quarterback Ashton Gondeck got the Bears flying. The senior made a sweet play-fake and then lofted a perfect pass to a wide-open Jackson Piggott on an 82-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead.
Batavia tied the game in the second quarter. Charlie Whelpley, who rushed for 45 yards on 10 carries, scored on two-yard run to make it 7-7.
The Bulldogs pulled ahead just before the half on 31-yard field goal by Alec Crum made it 10-7.
After both teams warmed up on a cold night at halftime, it was Batavia that came out on fire. On the first play from scrimmage, Jansey took a handoff and running behind Chaney, bolted through the middle of the line for a 71-yard touchdown run to make it 17-7.
"I was just running behind my fullback," Jansey said. "And I just saw daylight. My linemen and my fullback were absolutely crushing people today. The push they had today was unbelievable."
The Bulldogs broke the game open on the first play of the fourth quarter. Ryan Whitwell, who had 94 yards on 12 carries, popped off a 28-yard touchdown run to cap an eight-play drive to make it 24-7.
After a Lake Zurich three-and-out, Batavia ended the game without allowing the Bears to touch the ball again. They drove 15 plays, chomping down on the clock and took a pair of knees to end the game deep in Lake Zurich territory,
"We had some key injures," Piron sad. "And there are good teams in our conference. We had a goal all along and in some ways we are hitting our stride and we are the healthiest we have been all year."
It was a tough end to a great season for Lake Zurich. After finish 5-5 a year ago, the Bears rebounded to win the North Suburban Conference, including a win at Warren. They then finished with a run to the semifinals before losing again to Batavia -- who beat them in the first round of last year's playoffs and also in the 2017 state championship game.
"These kids were great," Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz said. "This senior class went through a lot. They still found a way to get better. In the end we just ran into a great Batavia team."