Batavia scores 4 times in 1st quarter, cruises past Hononegah into 7A semifinals
A broken nose is just a minor footnote in the week for Ben Brown.
Brown, the Batavia senior and captain linebacker, broke it in practice on Wednesday.
By Saturday, Brown was feasting for a key defensive moment in Batavia's 55-14 victory over Hononegah in the Class 7A quarterfinals.
The Bulldogs will play Mount Carmel in next weekend's state semifinals in a rematch of last year's Class 7A title game, a 44-20 Caravan win.
The season prior, Batavia lost in the second round to Mt. Carmel in difficult fashion at the buzzer.
" ... Benny works his can off. [A few days ago] he came off the field and his nose was all bleeding," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "I think he broke his nose in practice. He was very excited about it."
Whether or not he was upset, it was beyond clear the broken nose had no effect on his impact.
But, first, Batavia's offense took center stage and built a 28-0-first quarter lead.
The Bulldogs (11-1) scored on their first four possessions. Zach Granberg ripped off a 53-yard rushing score four plays into the game for the quick lead. The next drive, quarterback Ryan Boe found Brett Berggren for a 71-yard touchdown. Charlie Whelpley added a 3-yard score, and Boe added a 7-yard passing score to Pat McNamara.
Hononegah (11-1) then found some spark plays to claw back in. Quarterback Cole Warren engineered an eight-play drive that was capped off by a 5-yard passing score to Cole Schmall in the opening minute of the second quarter to make it 28-7.
Batavia's next drive was stalled and forced to punt. A high snap escaped and was eventually recovered by Hononegah senior Preston Ross. The offense needed one play -- a 4-yard rushing touchdown by Lucas Poppe -- to make it a two-score game with 7:08 left in the first half.
Batavia answered with a tough offensive drive. The Bulldogs had two key third-down conversions -- a Boe 12-yard rush and later a completion to Luke Alwin -- to keep the drive alive. Whelpley then converted the 4-yard score to make it 35-14.
Brown then found his moment to break through.
With Hononegah driving and approaching the red zone, Brown zoomed off the edge for a crushing strip sack on Warren. Xavier Blanquel pounced on the recovery. The next play, Boe hit Isaiah Brown for a staggering 69-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left in the first half for the 42-14 lead.
"Pass-rush, it's a fun game," said Brown, who finished with two sacks. "You're getting to work your tackle and you just go through the sequence. You're trying different stuff and you're setting them up for one thing and that one move worked nicely and I came off clean."
"We went to work in the offseason. [Kyle] Porter, and Ben Brown were probably my closest friends in the offseason just going to work every day," Bulldogs linebacker Ben Fiegel said. "Games like this, it really makes me remember all the 5:40 a.m. mornings and the late nights. It's awesome this happened today because it attests to their work."
Batavia later added touchdowns with completions from Boe to Brown for 26 yards, and Boe to Berggren for 26 yards to put the icing on a 55-14 lead with 6:53 left in the game.
Boe finished of 15 of 24 for 303 yards and five touchdowns. Brown had five catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns. Berggren had 97 yards on his two touchdown catches and Whelpley had 93 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Batavia limited a Hononegah offense that averaged 45 points per game entering this week. Warren was 21 for 41 for 231 yards. Senior wideout Joseph Melcher had eight catches for 116 yards.
" ... I'm just very excited about how hard we're working every single week; how good practices look," Piron said. "We had a week where we needed some guys to step up and practice ... Isaiah had a week. Practiced so well and we were saying he's due for a big game and here we go. Good for him."