Football: Historian sets record straight about Batavia-Geneva rivalry
Strawberry shortcake, Huckleberry pie,
Are we in it? Well I guess,
Batavia High School, Yes yes yes!
Imagine Batavia’s frenzied Dog Pound student section exhuming that chant from the early 20th century tonight at Bulldog Stadium.
Imagine the Bulldogs turning to the crowd and joining in. As long as they did their reading, they could.
The words can be found underneath a section heading in Batavia historian George Scheetz’s study “The Biggest Game of the Season: Batavia Bulldogs vs. Geneva Vikings,” an examination of the storied football rivalry that celebrates 100 years tonight when the Vikings (0-2) visit the Bulldogs (2-0).
Batavia coach Dennis Piron recently distributed the work to players, proving that spunky defensive coordinator and social studies faculty member Matt Holm isn’t the only one who can make history cool.
In completing a project that began with sporadic study shortly after he moved to Batavia eight years ago, Scheetz found he has provided the same service. From the greatest generation to the latest generation, the community is abuzz about new wrinkles to a part of their lives that never seems to get old.
“I like to fill in the gaps on things,” said Scheetz, the Batavia Public Library District director. “I think it’s in my brain. I just began seeing what went into that, and one thing led to another.”
Perhaps the most arduous undertaking was compiling an updated series history from the time coach Stanley Hill’s Batavia team defeated Geneva, 12-7, on Nov. 22, 1913.
Scheetz pored over plenty of microfilm and musty yearbooks, finding holes and inaccuracies that only prompted more digging.
That would be one thing for Piron, Holm or former longtime boys basketball coach Jim Roberts, Batavia alumni with endearing senses of duty to their community and school. But this was Scheetz, a St. Viator graduate who hardly attended any high school sporting events and most recently worked in Champaign.
By Scheetz’s – and ostensibly, history’s – count, the Vikings hold a 51-37-5 all-time edge, a wider gap on the Bulldogs than the previous tally.
“He kind of reversed a few Batavia victories; I’m not real happy about that,” Piron laughed. “But I guess it’s the truth, so we’ll have to stick with it.”
Piron’s son, Peyton, undertook a decidedly smaller-scale examination into the Batavia-Geneva football history as a fifth-grade project. These days, he’s a Batavia sophomore.
Dennis Piron casually had brought the work to Scheetz’s attention as the two began forming a friendship. Scheetz dedicated “The Biggest Game of the Season” to Piron, and notes his standing as the first Bulldogs coach to guide the team to a 9-0 regular season, his accomplishment in 2011.
Scheetz further picked the brains of several other principal Batavians and Genevans throughout the years.
“Very kindly, he did a tremendous amount of work and background checking,” said one such source, former Batavia coach and athletic director Mike Gaspari. “The time he spent with that is really awesome. It’s pretty amazing.”
The study can be found online by logging on to bataviahistory.org, clicking the “Local History” tab at the top of the page, and then clicking the first link under the “History of Batavia Public Schools” section.
Scheetz explores hundreds of intricacies outside the numbers, including histories of venues and nicknames. There’s discussion of the seasons in which the teams did not meet, namely Batavia’s 1915 diptheria epidemic and the Suburban Prairie Conference scheduling snafu of 1996.
Batavia and Geneva played in separate divisions of the three-division league then, but the set-up shifted the following season and the game was back on.
Calling it “a spare time thing” that’s doesn’t interfere with his day work, Scheetz has pledged to compile an overall history of Batavia football next. He figures to complete the project in the next few years.
“You go through phases where you go at it hard, and then you just don’t want to look at it anymore,” he said. “Then I stop for awhile, and it’s like I’m itching to go again. It’s pretty much a matter of getting down on that crazy microfilm.”
Is Scheetz in it? Yeah, you bet.
Batavia history, that’s his pet.