Batavia head coach Dennis Piron talks with the team after their victory over Geneva on Friday.
Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well, you know how the saying goes.
Batavia wasn't going to get fooled again.
Geneva can run trick plays with the best of them, and Parker Woodworth's first down on a fake punt in the third quarter led to a go-ahead touchdown for the Vikings that sent the home team's half of a standing-room-only crowd at Burgess Field into a frenzy.
The next time Geneva tried a fake punt Batavia senior Austin Lewis was ready and waiting.
Lewis dropped Geneva punter/quarterback Matt Williams for a 19-yard loss, giving Batavia first-and-goal at its 2. Two plays later Dom Guzaldo punched in 1 of his 3 second-half touchdown runs, opening up a two-score lead that Batavia used as the cushion it needed for a 46-34 victory.
"We worked on it all week," Lewis said. "That (first fake punt) ticked us off.
"(This win) is huge. We've got a bunch to look forward to. We have to finish up our season strong and hope to go undefeated for the first time in Batavia history."
Batavia (6-0, 3-0) snapped a 4-game losing streak to Geneva (5-1, 3-1) in the 94th meeting, bringing the series to 50-39-5 in the Vikings' favor.
"We faced the most adversity we have all season and we pulled through," lineman Brock Batka said.
The Bulldogs won despite losing starting quarterback Noel Gaspari late in the third quarter to a shoulder injury.
Gaspari, who had been 11 of 15 passing for 154 yards plus a pair of 2-point conversion passes, injured his right shoulder while getting tackled on a running play.
He took his shoulder pads off and sat on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. Backup QB junior Dan Albrecht directed a pair of touchdown drives without attempting a pass as Batavia's offensive line and diverse ground game took over.
"He's phenomenal, he doesn't miss receivers," said Batavia coach Dennis Piron, adding the team will find out this weekend how long Gaspari is out for. "His dad (offensive coordinator Mike Gaspari) is probably kicking himself now but we're trying to win the game."
Leading 17-14 at halftime, Batavia won the game by rushing for 232 of its 254 yards in the second half. Geneva took its last lead of the game on Woodworth's (21 carries, 123 yards) 44-yard touchdown with 7:41 left in the third quarter, but Batavia answered on Guzaldo's 4-yard TD run to go up 24-20.
Then Lewis, who scored a first-half defensive touchdown on a fumble recovery, stopped Williams on the fourth-down punt giving Batavia the ball at Geneva's 2. The quick touchdown made it 32-20.
"It was a punt," said Geneva coach Rob Wicinski, who often gives Williams the option of whether to kick or go for it, and Williams pulled off a key fake punt in Geneva's 40-21 win over Batavia the previous year. "They did a nice job of creasing us and he felt he didn't have room. It was designed to be a punt. They came off the edge. I have to see the tape."
Bobby Hess briefly got Geneva back in the game with a 94-yard kick return, the second big special teams play for the Vikings whose first score was set up by Ben Rogers' 66-yard punt return.
But Batavia dominated the final 12 minutes on the ground behind linemen Adam Hunger, Zack Schoettes, Ben Link, Batka and Nick Pappas.
When Williams scrambled 12 yards for a Geneva touchdown after a marathon 18-play drive that brought Geneva within 39-34 with 4:33 left in the game, Batavia responded by running the ball 6 straight times for 65 yards and Lyons' game-clinching 2-yard TD with 1:42 left.
Last year Geneva won the physical battle, out-rushing Batavia 268-135. Batavia turned the tables, winning this year's ground battle 254-162. Their defense also held the NIU-bound Williams to 3.2 yards per pass attempt as it took 22 attempts for him to get 71 yards.
"We contained the run game tonight," Piron said. "Our defense worked extremely hard. This was like an IHSA playoff game."
Both defenses came up with big plays early. A tackle for loss by Lewis helped halt Geneva's first possession, then Nick Caruso and Jeremy Craig teamed up for a sack to force a Batavia punt.
Geneva return man Rogers was ready, returning Jon Gray's punt 66 yards down to Batavia's 4-yard line. On third-and-1 Williams kept the ball on a bootleg and beat the Batavia defense to the corner of the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Geneva missed a golden chance to go up 14-0 after a forced fumble by Henry Zupke recovered by Jake Powers gave Geneva the ball at the 16. The Bulldogs held and forced a missed field goal.
Noel Gaspari brought the Bulldogs back through the air. He completed his first 7 attempts of the game, none bigger than a scrambling 4th-and-14 28-yard completion to Evan Zeddies setting Batavia up with 1st-and-goal at the 4. Alec Lyons took it from there plunging 4 yards for the touchdown, but the extra point attempt went wide keeping Geneva ahead 7-6.
Once again Rogers came through for Geneva with a 2-yard touchdown reception on fourth down to cap an 85-yard drive giving Geneva a 14-6 lead with 7:20 left in the second quarter. Batavia was its own worst enemy, committing 3 penalties for 35 yards on the drive.
The Bulldogs closed the first half strong. Gaspari marched Batavia to the 3-yard line before the drive stalled. The Bulldogs settled for Brandon Clabough's 21-yard field goal.
A shotgun snap got away from Williams on the next Geneva possession, and Lewis recovered in the end zone for a Batavia touchdown. Gaspari hit Cole Gardner on a 2-point conversion for a 17-14 halftime lead.