By Tommy Maren
In the waning moments of the fourth quarter in Batavia’s third round playoff matchup with Cary-Grove, faces on the Bulldog sideline were filled with emotion. Nobody on the sidelines wanted their season to come to an end. The Bulldogs enjoyed a successful 2015 run, going into the game against Cary-Grove with a 10-1 record. The Bulldogs hoped to come out strong in front of a sold-out home crowd, but unfortunately didn’t play their best against Cary-Grove.
“We turned the ball over too much and came up empty on too many possessions,” said Batavia wide receiver Canaan Coffey. “Our opening drive of the game, we marched all the way down the field and took nine minutes off the clock, yet we could not finish the possession. We needed to come out strong, and we didn’t.”
The Trojans (11-1) opened the scoring with a touchdown by Tyler Pennington, following a fumble by Batavia’s Zach Garrett. The Bulldogs (10-2) would answer on the following drive with a 14-yard touchdown from Batavia quarterback Kyle Niemiec to Johnny Fitch. After freshman kicker Jack Carlson made the extra point, Batavia lead 7-6 in front of their home fans at Bulldog Stadium.
The Bulldogs looked like they would be taking their lead into halftime, but late in the second quarter Cary-Grove went for it on a risky fourth down play and converted on a 46-yard touchdown by junior running back Ryan Magel. After Magel ran in the 2-point conversion, the Trojans lead 14-7 at halftime.
Batavia continued to make costly mistakes to start the second half, as Zach Garrett fumbled a second time to give Cary-Grove the ball at the Bulldog’s 37 yard line. A couple plays later, the Trojan’s Ryan Magel had his second score of the afternoon.
“I think the turning point in the game is when they capitalized off of our mistakes and scored to go up 21-7,” Coffey said. “That was a big score for them, and momentum started to shift their way.”
The Trojans didn’t look back, with three more touchdowns coming from running backs Kevin Hughes, Ryan Magel, and Tyler Pennington. Magel finished with three touchdowns on the day, while Pennington finished with two.
Down 28-7 in the third quarter, Kyle Niemiec got on the board again with a running touchdown of his own. Canaan Coffey rounded out Batavia’s scoring, capitalizing on a deep throw by Niemiec.
Despite the loss to Cary-Grove, the Bulldogs still had plenty to be proud of.
“I am so proud of every single guy on the team this year and all that we accomplished this year,” Coffey said.
Batavia won its fifth straight UEC River Division title this season, beating rival Geneva 24-14 on the Viking’s home turf.
“That was such a fun game, and to be able to beat them on their field while securing that championship was awesome,” Coffey said.
Batavia was a classy, tightly knit group all season, and their success on the field reflected it. “After four years, I have built unbelievable friendships not only with my teammates but with my coaches,” Coffey said. “I´ve been playing with these guys since seventh grade and most of these guys are like brothers to me. I love every single one of them. Also, I firmly believe we have the hardest working coaching staff in all of Illinois. It was so cool to see how much they sacrificed for us and how much time they put in so that us players had a better chance to be successful.”
(Photo Courtesy of Kane County Chronicle)